The most startling revelations are the ones that you never saw coming about a stranger who you would probably never see again. I’d always wondered what it must be like until I experienced it myself.
On a train to Marseille, I bumped into a man, who seemed very nervous & anxious with people around him as he kept moving his hands & couldn’t rest at one place. He had a dreary face which dripped of pain. I noticed him on the platform first, waiting for the train to arrive. As the train chugged slowly towards us, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of intrigue about this stranger who had a little backpack which he kept hold of very closely like it was a treasure of sorts. I boarded & as the train gained momentum I noticed the same man sitting right across me in the fully occupied coach. The usual hustle-bustle of train stations was getting away from us & moving towards the destination. A while later, I was lost in my own thoughts when suddenly a ruffled noise distracted me. What caught my attention was a blue diary he had in his hand. He kept opening it up, looking at something & closing it down. I wondered what it had. Wondered what was going on in his mind.
The train went past warehouses, bridges & shattered old houses. Through tinted dirty windows I saw people going on with their day & the parallel lives they lead.
I came to my senses as the train came to a jolt. I struggled to read the free newspaper handed to me as nothing was successful in holding my interest. Once again my eyes wandered, I looked up & saw him touching the seat next to him & the blue diary. He was the only one occupying two spaces in the coach.
After the ticket collector left, my focus shifted to the radio the person next to me was listening to since the past half hour. It was going to be a cloudy weekend ahead & they were cautioning people to stay indoors as a storm was expected in the next 72 hours. I thought about my pet dog at home, how he must be going crazy with all the thundering in the skies.
There was an old lady chatting away on her phone, just everyday banter about a neighbour. And just when I thought the man wouldn’t fidget with his diary, he did it again. My mind was racing with a million whys & my palms were sweaty.
The coach emptied a bit as people got down at various stations. And I tried to get as close as I could to this mysteriously strange man, he got up from his seat & as he leaned forward to see outside, he dropped a piece of paper. Picking it up as soon as I could I slowly moved my fingers on the demarcations drawn on the hastily torn paper. It appeared to be from a personal diary as there were random thoughts scribbled all over it. One of them said – “You know you’re okay, when thunderstorms and lightnings turn into lullabies and make you sleep.”
These lines struck a chord with me. I was clueless but they pinched right through my heart & I wanted to know the reason behind this pain.
The blue diary raised a lot of questions time & again in my mind & as the train arrived at its destination I gathered my things & quickly decided to follow the man. I went past tea- coffee vendors, book sellers & little kiosks. He stopped near one of the soup stalls & looked dearly at the train he just got off from. This emotion on the face disturbed me & as I began to walk towards him, he moved towards the exit, took a taxi & left. I followed suit.
I kept following him until he reached an old house in the suburbs of the city. The name plate on the door read ‘Samuel James’. I watched him go inside & contemplated what to do. I kept waiting there for any activity or information I could get.
A little while later, another man arrived at the house, he was a strong muscled man with a receding hairline & had a briefcase in his hand. I hustled to hide behind the bushes & in the process got scratched by the thorny ones & started to bleed. I covered my bruised leg & tried to sneak a peek inside the house. I saw the man with the diary, writing something in it. And the other one watching him contently.
After what seemed like an hour the muscled man comes out the front door. They exchanged goodbyes & he moved towards his car. I walked up to him & introduced myself as a friend of Samuels’. He seemed surprised with this information & said, ‘Sorry but I haven’t seen you around ever.’ ‘I was away for a while for a job assignment so,’ I managed to reply. He said he was glad to see a friendly face & would be good for Samuel. I struggled to keep up the facade & handed him the piece of paper i had so he could decipher it for me. ‘He just comes across a very disturbed person with a lot of pain in his emotionless eyes, I would like to know the reason,’ I said. ‘ I’m sorry but I’m his therapist & I’m not allowed to leak any information about my patients’, he said with a stern look. I coaxed him & he replied,’ Didn’t you say you were a friend?’ ‘I’m an acquaintance, I said , maybe he doesn’t remember me at all. Please help me out here, I really want to know what happened with him.’ He signalled me to sit & took out the piece of paper. What I found out in the next half hour shook me up. He told me, ‘ Samuel had a wife & today is her first death anniversary. She was travelling by the same train he did today. He was in therapy since the past one year & only today I got him to travel by the same train. The seats he occupied were the ones he & his wife sat on. And the blue diary he had in his hand was his wife’s where she often wrote her heart out.’ I couldn’t muster up the courage to know how it all happened but then again I’d to know. He proceeded to tell me that the day she was travelling, a group of terrorists hijacked the train & started shooting randomly. She was just trying to protect a child when she got hit by a bullet that ripped right through her heart & there she died, right on the spot. Since that day Samuel hasn’t recovered. He loved his wife so dearly & his whole life shattered the day she left the world. Today was an extremely difficult day for Samuel as he left his home and tried to face the memories that haunt him. I was left speechless with nothing but just a piece of paper in my hand written by a stranger about his current state of mind.