At the first station, a girl jumped from the train for a cola, leaving
her notebook on the table, her jacket on the back of the chair. Weeping,
she chased the train when we left her. The student with straw-colored
hair put his hands on my shoulders to say: Don't. He was from Warsaw or
Berlin. I pretended to misunderstand because we were just then crossing
the border between comfort and terror. For fifty miles, I watched the
space she once occupied. Until the engineer wiped his face with the
sleeve of her jacket. Until the student tore a page from the notebook to
write the address of a coffee shop he wanted to visit. We passed a field
with a scarecrow, unshorn sheep, a village so poor they licked salt from
each others' faces. A family got on in Lodz and sat down at her table,
pushing aside the few molecules of her breath that lingered. At the
Pension, I climbed stairs in the green hallway that narrowed until they
disappeared into the wall, a point I marked X, with the pencil I had
taken from her satchel.
Janet McAdams' fiction and poetry have appeared in storySouth, femspec,
TriQuarterly, Salt, and Shenandoah. She is the author of The Island of
Lost Luggage. More of her writing is available at her website.
Photo courtesy of Eric Feldman.