Several years ago, I took the train to a meeting that I was attending in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“A train trip is going to be the subject of your blog post?” Well, this is California, not the East Coast or Europe. For us, train trips are lodged in our memories, not day-in, day-out features of our daily landscapes. Before that, I had probably only ridden a train twice, both times as a kid, when my parents arranged for special experiences. One if not both of the trains I rode in then were steam engines.
The trip was a lovely experience, what with the wide, comfortable seats, the view of places not otherwise seen, and dinner in a formal dining car. It’s not actually the train ride that my story is about, however.
My meeting the next day would be intense, requiring constant attention to facts presented and the emotions and hints of motivation that would flit across the other participants’ faces. I intended to prepare by purging my mind that evening, and took a book along to read. I wish I could remember the title of the book. All I know is that it was romantic – something of a departure for me – and that fact was probably reflected in its title.
For the first hour of my ride, I chatted with the man across the aisle from me. He told me that he played with the Montovani Orchestra, and would be leaving soon for a concert tour of Europe. I had no idea that the Orchestra still existed.
Montovani music was a mainstay of my childhood. Once my sister and I began to read, my parents decided not to have a television. Consequently we were huge readers. Often we would array ourselves around the living room in the evening, reading four different books, with the Montovani Orchestra providing grand yet intimate atmosphere. (Though clearly music of another era, Montovani music is undeniably romantic.)
But I digress . . . back to the man on the train. One of my favorite things in life is talking with men.
(And again . . . . I was talking with a couple of my husband’s employees the other day. One is just a few weeks into this, her first job after graduating from college. She was laughing, saying that she was pretty sure all of her patients really liked having her as their physical therapist. “Maybe not,” she said, “but it makes my life so much nicer thinking that they do.” I told her that I totally understood. “I’m pretty certain that all the men I talk with want to marry me!”)
Our traveling conversation was enjoyable. I don’t recall the substance, only that I didn’t read any of the book that I had on my lap. After an hour, though, I excused myself to go to the dining car; it would be a short trip and I was determined to have that experience before arriving at my destination. I left my book open on the seat, to ensure that I would not be bumped from my seat while I was away.
When I did return, my conversation-mate had debarked. I was sorry that I hadn’t known he would be leaving, so that I could have wished him a good time in Europe. I picked up my book, to occupy the last few minutes of my own trip, and discovered that the man had left a note for me, as a bookmark. “I will be on tour for about two months, but I would like to see you when I return. My phone number is . . . .”
Ooooh! I had been with my own lover for 15 years, and was very happy as his wife, but still, what a memory. I would keep the note, and probably find some way to the let the man know that. I felt flattered as I picked it up later that evening, marking my spot in the book before I turned off the light in the hotel I was staying in.
Fast-forward to unpacking after I returned home from my trip. No book, no note. What a disappointment! I could easily find another copy of the book to finish, but I wanted to keep the note, pressed between the pages of a book that would be with me for life, just as a reminder of an unusual and companionable train ride.
As I thought further, however, I decided that this story might have an even more romantic ending. What if the hotel maid found the book and took it home, discovered the note, and called the author herself?