You Are Here

Elizabeth Rosner

You board the train like everyone else, except you're the one carrying everything on your back, shoulders strained by the weight of your adventures. You've passed through a hundred towns whose names you've already forgotten, and you study the landscape as if it contains the explanation for your life. But the answers remain invisible, and instead you daydream about the lives of the people whose gardens so casually display themselves; you wonder what else they do besides hang laundry or push a silent mower or toss a ball to a laughing child. To all of them you are barely a blur on the horizon, someone they won't even catch a glimpse of, someone whose life has nothing to do with theirs.

For once, for today, you have a destination: a city in which you are planning to rendezvous with a man whose language you don't speak. You met him somewhere else, on a small island in the middle of the Aegean, but at the time you couldn't follow the urgings of your desire because you were with another man, one whose desire for you had not been part of the itinerary. You were supposed to be traveling partners, nothing more, but then he tried too hard to take care of you, to protect you from whatever it was he imagined you needed protection from, and in order to escape his solicitation you had to ride a motorcycle high into the verdant mountains. The villagers stared as you passed through, pausing to gossip about the unescorted woman with bare legs and bare shoulders and sunglasses. And all the time you were fantasizing about that other man, the one whose language you didn't speak.

So now you are surprising him with a call from the train station in his own city, suddenly aware that he may not have wanted you as much as you thought he did that week when you didn't touch each other. But his voice sounds pleased, very pleased, and he picks you up and brings you to his apartment on the artistic side of town where, you are utterly relieved to see, he lives alone. He asks if you are hungry, and with sweet eagerness, he takes your hand when you walk down the street toward the café. When he puts his arm around you, it’s as though you are back on that island in the sun, soaking with heat. Later, in bed with him, your skin is electric, currents pulsing for hours. He seems to want to learn the relief map of your body. There are no words to describe to him what you are feeling, but in the darkness, you have long drawn-out vowels whose meaning is always perfectly clear.


When it is already time for you leave the next day, he drives you to the station through heavy traffic; he has to park while you dash for the train. Just when it's nearly too late you see him running down the platform in a cinematic blur, desperate and smiling. For one last scene, the two of you reach to join hands through the half-open window of your second class compartment, and you can't help knowing that you will never see this man again, that your life will continue as if this interruption never happened. You are leaving with nothing more than the baggage you carried on arrival, letting go of whatever it was you never had.




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