Her Voice on the Train to Milan

Alan Herman

Copyright 2020 by Alan Herman

Man looking out train window.

It was a chilly October after midnight morning. I had walked from my hotel laden with suitcase and backpack through dark streets and across a highway before being welcomed by the lit, warm and quiet waiting room of the Verona railroad station. Only a few people were waiting for the rare east- or west-bound train.

My train from Venice silently arrived on time at 2:20. I heard an announcement and walked outside to the platform; there was the train, as if it was waiting only for me. I found the car designated on my ticket, and boarded.

The side corridor was lit and I found my numbered room easily. The dual sliding doors were closed and the curtain drawn. I opened the doors to a dark scene hearing only snores; then my eyes adjusted to two people each lying out on the facing cushions. Rather than waking them up, or seeking a conductor, I moved to the next room, opened the doors and found the situation the same.

I tried a third room and opened the doors to a ceiling light and a man and woman casually dressed and a third woman dressed in a black dress on one cushion opposite a third casually-dressed woman sitting opposite in the middle position. The two casually-dressed women were talking.

Fortunately, the window seat was free next to the third woman and I immediately sat there. I wanted a window seat. You see even though the scene was mainly dark, I imagined the hills and lake country and managed to make out some street-lit spots of Brescia as we passed.

I wrote in my diary and read my guidebook and map. I was on a long ride with change of train in Milan to Nice.

Then, I realized I was listening to the voices. Mostly it was the woman across from me who spoke to the woman next to me, who only occasionally responded. Still less frequently did the man join in. Because she was across from me in a direct visual line, and dominated the conversation, as if reciting a soliloquy, I was drawn to her words, compelled to listen though except for body language understood little of the Italian.

She had on black jeans and a black vest over a white shirt; glasses and straight black hair lying across her shoulders, and bangs. She was slim and attractive, though it was not her comeliness that attracted me. It was her voice that was alluring.

Her voice was dark and husky. When she spoke her moist and gravelly tone tickled my ears. What she was vocalizing seemed intimate and important. I sensed that every word and every sentence was carefully chosen. Her words were separated by slushy tongue sounds, and her lips smacked between sentences. I was transfixed by the sounds.

I found it hard not to stare at her. I alternately focused on her lips and then on her eyes. The man would occasionally interrupt in a bass to her melody. The woman next to me was quiet but at each pause, as if tacitly expected, refueled the speaker with verbal sustenance. The woman in black never said a thing although seemed a part of the group.

I imagined the subject was family, and a troublesome matter. The main speaker was getting 'something off her chest.'

 I was mesmerized by the conversing threesome. What I was listening to in my mind was a performance, better than any cultural attraction I could have drawn from my guide book; a benefit of traveling in rooms common in European trains.

Oh would I have loved to eaves drop more.

I waited until the group (including the woman in black) detrained in Milan before I made for the exit. I needed a moment to break myself from the speaker's voice, and from the mini-world I had become a part of.

I am a writer of history, place and people; and serendipitous travel.

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