Saturday, June 17, 2006

futur parfait

You're little more than a faint voice nearly lost amidst crackling static, a tiny, tiny voice pushing her way through great, jostling, white and black globs of interference. I'm holding my cell phone up to my ear, and squinting through the train window into the gloom.

"I'm sorry dear, but I can barely hear you."

"Je serai-" Fade to fuzz. "-avant que-" squealing dissonance. "-arriviez."

"Pardonnez-moi. Really, now - my reception seems to be almost nil. Can I call you back when I find a more reliable telephone?"

"Je serai-" Urgent now, but this line, as well, deteriorating, crumbling away like those before it.

"Listen, the train is just about to depart. I'll call you right back."

Clicking my phone shut, I'm just about to get up from my seat when the door to my cabin is opened, and in blows a whirlwind of long legs, Luis Vuitton, and platinum hair.

"I'm sorry," she breathes, "I wasn't sure anyone would be in here."

I just stare, partially standing, my mouth agape.

"I think this is the right place is it not?" she asks. "Cabin B-2?"

"Yes," I acknowledge with some apprehension, "but I really wasn't expecting anyone."

"I know, and I hope you're not upset that I'm here," she says before nibbling at her bottom lip. "It does seem, though, that they have gone and overbooked themselves."

"Well, I'm not upset that you, in particular, are here, but I did pay for privacy," I say. "Now I'll have to rearrange my stuff." With that I begin clearing the other seat of my belongings.

"I'm sorry, but is that your phone beeping or mine?"

"It's mine," I say from amidst a great pile of things. Balancing my appurtenances in my arms, I attempt a clumsy gesture for the woman to sit in the newly vacant seat across from me. "Sounds as though I've a message."

All at once, the train lurches to life, there's a little confusion, and the two of us resort to sitting in silence as it gains speed, whisking us from the grey concrete of the platform into the barren yellow countryside. The mammoth machine settled into motion now, we fall into a semblance of relaxation, tranquilised by the droning thrum of steel rolling on steel.

"I'm sorry," I say, offering my hand, "I think we got off to a bad start back there."

She takes my half smile, making it her own, and takes my hand as well, shaking it gently.

"It's perfectly fine. Understandable, even. My name's-"

There's another beep from my phone.

"I think you're still beeping," the woman says, with a chuckle.

"Yes," I smile, "you'll have to excuse me while I check my messages."

Phone pressed to ear once again, I hear your voice now, clear as ever.

"Je serai parti avant que vous arriviez. J'expliquerai plus tard pourquoi."

I click my phone shut.

"Something the matter?" the woman asks.

"Seems as though I'm on a train to nowhere," I say.

She just looks quizzically, unsure of what to say.

"So, where are you off to?" I ask. "Maybe we're going the same way."

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