April 11, 2006

39: The green sun

I was thrilled to be on my own when I left Oxford—me and my sixty pounds of luggage and my rail pass.

Four trains—first to Reading, then Ash and Aldershot and Alton—took me from commercial Oxford into the green sun of the English countryside. Hills, wheat fields, copses of trees, vines overgrowing the tracks. My mind was full of goodness, of a tremendous confidence I couldn’t articulate—of Jack’s regard, of my respect for him and his worthiness of it. I was sure I loved him, though I wouldn’t use that word. I’d never felt so sure of anything in my life. I wasn’t so silly as to begin to speculate about exactly what it would mean, though I wondered what form it would take, how long it would take to meander through casual dinners to beach trips with friends and holidays with family, to its perhaps inevitable conclusion.

Perhaps part of the joy of being alone was having this great goodness to consider, this thing that no one around me knew.

My train was late into Reading. I missed my connection, got a chicken sandwich, figured out how to read the train schedules. There are at least ten platforms here, full of people, with small little cafes and newsstands and hanging flowering baskets. When the trains come in, there are just a few minutes for everyone to get off and on, and if you are waiting on the wrong platform you’ll never make it. I kept checking and doublechecking to make sure I had it right.

In Aldershot, I had almost an hour to wait, missing the train earlier having messed up this connection as well. There was just a single platform—or two, I guess, one on each side of the tracks—and a couple simple benches in the sun. The teenage girl who shared my bench was smoking and talking on her mobile and fixing her makeup. A shady-looking guy just down the platform helped me with my bags when the train finally came.

As the trip stretched out over three hours, my elation and certainty waned, my exhaustion began to take over.


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