THE SZENTENDRE TRAIN

I took the Szentendre train twice each week.  Early Monday mornings I stood at the station near my home and waited for the train to take me into Budapest, where I was an assistant professor of anatomy at Semmelweis University.  Friday evenings I caught a train back to Szentendre.  Between the two short train rides, my life was bland, grey, boring, and repetitive.  In Szentendre I did my grocery shopping in the open market and prepared my meals for the week in the city. I was able to rent a cheaper flat in the city if I didn’t need cooking facilities.  In Budapest I spent most of my time in my flat, and the rest of my time with my students.

Last autumn I began to wonder about my life.  I had been on vacation for the summer, and the return to the routine of city life and work was objectionable to me.  Weekends at home were no better.  Lonely days and nights, some so lonely I just sat around my house and cried for hours.  It took all my will to go to the train station in Szentendre that first Monday morning in September.  The usual scattering of people was there, waiting for the train to Budapest.  I kept my eyes down as always.  I was not in the mood for idle small talk.  My spirit was in turmoil.  I wanted to be left alone, to avoid social contact.  At the same time, I wanted love, affection, attention, and sex.

My husband… my former husband… was a dentist.  He had run off with his office assistant three years before.  I didn’t see it coming, and it put me into a deep depression.  I wasn’t interested in anything, and I simply buried myself in my work. It had not always been so, but I was thirty-nine years old, living alone and longing for love.  I would have settled for any old fool of a lover, just to be touched by a warm, tender hand again.  I was grey.  My hair, my complexion, and my spirit were all grey.  I was a colourless lump of average looking, depressed, slightly overweight middle-aged female meat, and I felt like shit.

The first week back at work was the usual mess of misunderstandings and scheduling conflicts and what have you.  In spite of the lonely, empty house in Szentendre, I was looking forward to getting home to my garden and my sculpture studio.  I like to make pottery or sculpt animals and human figures in clay. It’s just a hobby, but it was satisfying in a way, and helped to pass lonely hours.  I worked in my garden during Saturday and Sunday mornings and in my studio on weekend afternoons and evenings.

The first Friday night of the new semester, I boarded a later than usual train to Szentendre, because the hectic first week of school left me with some extra duties.  Evening was settling in when I took my seat.  The coach was empty except for a young man seated across the aisle from me.  He looked at me and smiled with a slight tilt of his head.  I averted my eyes and stared out the window at the passing scene that was fading in the descending evening light.

I had never seen the young man before, and I wondered for a moment why he had smiled at me. I was one of the first passengers to leave the train.  I hurried across the platform toward home, and didn’t see him disembark behind me.   When I arrived at home, I made a small supper for myself and did a bit of housework before I went to sleep.  Saturday morning, I busied myself with my garden and my studio.  The weekend passed with the usual boring loneliness, and by Monday morning I was ready to return to the University.  At least I had some human interaction at my job, even though it was only with the students in my anatomy classes or some professors in the lounge.

As usual, I kept to myself on the platform, waiting for the commuter train to take me into the city.  Most of the scattered people were reading newspapers or talking quietly to each other.  I tilted my face up to the rising sun, closed my eyes, and let the warmth soothe me.  I heard the train coming, and I felt the people around me moving about in preparation for its arrival.  Someone stood next to me, almost brushing the sleeve of my coat, but I did not acknowledge it.

The breeze from the moving train touched me, and I opened my eyes to climb aboard.  I took a seat and looked up to see the same young man I had seen on the Friday evening ride home.  He again smiled and nodded at me.  I half-smiled in return, took some papers from my briefcase, and pretended to read them.  I didn’t understand why the young man noticed me, and I dared not look at him long enough to see if I knew him.  I doubted he was a student in one of my classes because I know each of them quite well.  I had the impression from my quick glances that he was tall, broadly built, and with a good-looking square face.  He had a high forehead under thick, blond hair that he wore tied low down on the back of his head in a long ponytail.

The train rolled into the Budapest station.  I did not hurry to leave my seat because I hoped to see the young man from a different angle, when he couldn’t see me staring.  I pretended to be searching in my bag for something when he got up and went to the door.  His legs were long and his ass was absolutely beautiful.  The muscles in his thighs were tight in his jeans, stretching the denim.  I could see on the back of his red windbreaker the symbol of the University of Fine Arts in downtown Budapest.  He left the train and turned right toward the exit that leads to downtown transportation.  I turned right toward Semmelweis University.  Before I left the station I stopped and looked back, hoping to see the red jacket in the flowing crowd.  I was stunned to see him standing in the middle of the people rushing this way and that all around him while he looked back at me.  Flushed with embarrassment, I turned quickly and rushed up the stairs with the crowd and out onto the street above.

The week dragged so slowly, I was insane with impatience for the Friday evening train to Szentendre, so I could see the young man again.  By Wednesday afternoon I was beside myself.  One of my students even asked if I was feeling well.  I hadn’t realised that it showed.  I was building up a volcano of curiosity, a lava flow of desire, a fantasy of romance that was ridiculous and I knew it.  My mind was filled with visions of myself in my studio, the young man naked on a platform while I drew him and sculpted him and painted him.  I saw myself walking around and around him, casually viewing his legs, his ass his arms and chest and finally, his cock, hanging like salami over his plump balls.

Suddenly, in the middle of my final Wednesday class, I had a thought: maybe he didn’t take the train back and forth only on Fridays and Mondays.  Maybe he took the train back and forth every day.  It’s only a half-hour each way.  I spent my weeknights in the city because the University provided a living allowance that almost covered it, and the house was just too lonely to live in alone all the time.  At least I could occasionally enjoy a good restaurant meal, or a concert, or just walk anonymously among the strangers in the square.

The final class ended, and I impulsively rushed to the train station and got there just in time to see the train boarding.  I looked everywhere for the red jacket, but could not find it.  I decided to board the train anyway, and go home for the evening.  Maybe the young man had taken an earlier train on Wednesday.  Maybe he would be on the Szentendre platform in the morning – with me also there… on the platform.  I went up and down through every car on the ride home.  I tried to pretend I wasn’t looking for anyone, in case I saw him.  It was ridiculous of course, because what other reason could there be for a foolish old woman to be wandering up and down a whole train, if not looking for someone?

He was not there.  I walked home on the dusty road, unlocked the front gate and carefully locked it behind me before I went up the stairs to the door and let myself into the house.  I felt like a real idiot, going on like this about nothing.  I was obviously emotionally screwed up, or I wouldn’t feel weak as a kitten just thinking about…who?  Thinking about this stranger who is young enough to be my child.  I had to do something to keep busy or I’d go crazy, so I got a bunch of vegetables out of the refrigerator and cut a slab of beef into cubes and made a pot of gulas.

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