January 28, 2009

Are you Arabic?

Twenty two years ago I was sitting in an empty dining car on a train from Princeton, New Jersey to Washington D.C., when a girl who I did not know slid into the seat across the table from me. I thought she must have mistaken me for a friend by the familiar way she bounded over. She was a few years older than me, preppy, and carried a copy of the New Yorker magazine with a man walking his dog in the snow on the cover. She smelled of vanilla. It was twilight out, a heavy snow was falling, and without looking at me she said, "I hate snow," to which I eventually answered, "Oh... How sad." She turned from the window looking at me carefully, pursed her lips, and began reading her magazine. I continued looking out the window. We sat there in silence for the good part of an hour and then she abruptly rose and said, "You will remember me," and left. I never saw her again.

I remember the sound of the train, the snow swirling by, and the color of the sky which turned from lapis to midnight. I remember I was wearing a plaid shirt with a missing button under my father's overcoat and I remember in my pocket I was carrying a polaroid picture of a lady in black carrying a black umbrella in the snow. I remember the blackwatch scarf the girl wore draped around her neck, cashmere probably, and I remember that smell of vanilla, but I couldn't tell you a single thing about her face, her voice, or even the color of her hair. So, if by some strange fate, you happen to read this girl on the train: "No. It turns out I haven't remembered you, you have flickered away."

posted at 01:31 AM by raul

Filed under: personal history

TAGS: girls on trains (1) memory (15) my manchurian candidate moment (1) snow (5)


01/28/09 03:18 AM

Wonderful post and wonderful story, I love trains and casual meetings with stranger.

01/28/09 11:07 AM

Some of the favorite people I have ever met, I met on long night trains. Your writing about the romance everyday life always makes me want to read more. Have you ever written anything longer form? I'd love to live in that world for a while.

01/28/09 11:30 AM

no longer form.
this is exquisite...just as it is.
your stories are magical and powerful
precisely because of the way you pack so much in to a tiny space.

01/29/09 02:03 AM

Love the Manchurian Candidate reference in the title.

Found your cover!

01/29/09 10:31 PM

great story... thx for sharing.

02/01/09 10:01 AM

but you have remembered , her face was not important it was the moment itself the synesthesia of senses that mattered i doubt
the moment would have lasted in your memory if it wasn't for the unusual stranger that crossed your path

02/01/09 11:30 PM

I've been trying to think of my fondest lost memory ever since I read this, but have only resurfaced and rehashed many things I wish I had remained forgotten...

Maybe it will come back to you someday in the future? And how would you feel if you did remember?

02/05/09 12:08 AM

Oh but you did remember her, if not her features, her presence.

I always thought it was interesting that in Citizen Kane, when Bernstein talks about the girl on the ferry that he has never forgotten, that he does not describe her physically either - just that she was wearing a white dress and carried a white parasol. As if the costumes and props supply that one moment to solidify that one memory, though a person him/herself is comprised of many moments and usually escapes being reduced to just one.

I want a book of your short stories and prose.

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