A Journey of the Heart
It was ironic, he supposed, that they were making this journey by train. After all, it was on a train that they had first met some ten years ago when both of them were on a vacation in England and taking the train from London to Brighton. There was a certain symmetry, a sort of coming-full-circle feeling to their current trip.
They were headed south, and the train rolled along so smoothly that he almost didn't feel its motion. It was cruel, he thought, that they were forced to sit in separate compartments, but that was just the way things were. They needed to get to where they were going, and, since the arrangements were last minute, they were in no position to argue with the railway.
He sat back in his seat, grateful at least that he was spared having anyone else sit next to him, at least so far. Outside the window, autumn was in its full-blown glory, and fiery reds, oranges, and yellows burst out of the hillsides, creating some sort of northeast display worthy of a Charles Ives painting. The sky was the bright shade of blue, almost electric, that seemed to come only in the fall. It looked as though the birds, which he occasionally observed from his window, could be stained by the liquid color. Outside and all about him, life bustled, hurtling forward in its restless ebb and flow, unaware.
He thought about Jim in the other train car, wishing he could touch him, wondering if he was feeling as lonely, lost, and separated. He turned in his seat, pressing his head against the cool window glass, and shut his eyes. Whispering and promising himself he would stop should anyone occupy the seat next to him, he gave in to the urge to talk to Jim. He needed to talk to Jim, even if they were separated by several train car lengths, needed to make that connection.
He had to.
"Honey, I hope you're doing okay back there. Are you comfortable? The trip isn't long, so don't panic. We'll be together again soon. I'll make sure of that."
He glanced across the aisle. There was a woman in jeans and a sweater, tending to a little boy, setting out a juice box and animal crackers on a tray before him. The little boy bounced up and down in his seat, and his mother was busy trying to keep him quiet, occupied. He was sure she was too busy--and distracted--to hear him.
"Remember that train trip we took when we first met?" He snickered, trying not to make any noise. "We both got on the train in London at St. Pancras Station, and I saw you right away. The station that sunny summer morning was filled with travelers like us, but somehow you stood out to me, like there was some sort of shimmer around you. I suppose there was." He closed his eyes, pressing his forehead harder into the cool glass. His whispering had a furious intensity. "That shimmering was love, even though I didn't know it then." He laughed. "I would have just called it lust.
"But there you were in the busy station with its airy domed glass ceiling. My God, it seemed like the summer light was shining down only on you. Who knows why? Back then, you were just a boy, fresh out of McGill University, on a summer trip that was a graduation gift from your parents." He shook his head, but it was with pleasure at the images dancing across the inside of his eyelids. St. Pancras Eurostar Train station was gorgeous, a lovely melding of the old and the new, with an arching glass ceiling that at once mimicked and glorified the summer sky. Outside, its spires reached up toward that same sky and the station's red brick Gothic architecture promised excitement, travel, and adventure. If he had only known how much adventure when he walked into the station. Life-changing adventure! Love at first sight! Naughty doings in the bathroom of a high-speed train! The smile spread across his face, and he warmed at the memory.
But the glory of the St. Pancras Station couldn't hold a candle to the real image of beauty: Jim, who had stood there in a simple white T-shirt and cargo shorts, his hairy, muscled calves drawing his eyes first. He drank in Jim's sculpted calves, defined by muscle and the down of pale brown hair. He remembered looking them up and down, watching as they disappeared into the loose khaki fabric on top and the hiking boots and slouching socks below. Jim had a worn backpack strapped to his broad back. Tan, defined biceps strained the simple white cotton of his shirt. "And when you turned my way, sweetheart, I was done, cooked, ruined for anyone else. That face, I suddenly felt, had been waiting for me all my life."