A first date. Expectations are high for a writer I’ve anticipated with urgency. I read the first sentence, once, then again, then for a third time.
Since the passenger train connecting the icebound estates of the southern lowlands which extend from the banks of the Tisza almost as far as the foot of the Carpathians, had, despite the garbled explanations of a haplessly stumbling guard and the promises of the stationmaster rushing nervously on and off the platform, failed to arrive (“Well squire, it seems to have disappeared into thin air again..” the guard shrugged pulling a sour face) the only two serviceable old wooden-seated coaches maintained for just such an ‘emergency’ were coupled to an obsolete and unreliable 424, used only as a last resort, and put to work, albeit a good hour and a half late according to a timetable to which they were not bound and which was only an approximation anyway, so that the locals who were waiting in vain for the eastbound service and had accepted its delay with what appeared to be a combination of indifference and helpless resignation, might eventually arrive at their destination some fifty kilometres further along the branch line.
With held breath I read the second sentence.
To tell the truth none of this really surprised anyone anymore since rail travel, like everything else, was subject to the prevailing conditions: all normal expectations went by the board and one’s daily habits were disrupted by a sense of ever-spreading all-consuming chaos which rendered the future unpredictable, the past unrecallable, and ordinary life so haphazard that people simply assumed that whatever could be imagined might come to pass, that if there were only one door in a building it would no longer open, that wheat would grow head downwards into the earth not out of it, and that, since one could only note the symptoms of disintegration, the reasons for it remaining unfathomable and inconceivable, there was nothing anyone could do except to get a tenacious grip on anything that was still tangible; which is precisely what people at the village station continued to do when, in hope of taking possession of the essentially limited seating to which they were entitled, they stormed the carriage doors, which being frozen up proved very difficult to open.
I look around. No one has seen me for a while. I make a cup of tea and wonder where I can disappear for a few hours, or the day.
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