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THE 8 P.M. TRAIN TO TORREJON

 

   

 

A real story 1985. Dedicated to those who love me and want my success!

THE  8 p.m. TRAIN TO TORREJÓN

 

After a terrible day tired and glum as I was nothing had any interest for me.

I walked slowly to the train station and when I passed the entrance to the Prado Museum  I wondered why I had  that feeling of  calm whenever I saw it. I went on along the Paseo del Prado  towards the Cibeles fountain walking between the rows of ancient trees that seemed like hedges to me. Hedges to protect me from the noisy aggression of the city  life  with its roaring cars and its crowded streets.

In the Paseo all was calm. Summer was ending and some of the leaves on the trees were turning yellow, which gave splendor to their natural beauty. As I approached the station the Cibeles Goddess captured my eye and my imagination. She was there magnificent, seated in her beautiful cart pulled by fierce lions on a timeless trip facing the Gran Via and Alcalá streets indifferent to the rushing around her.

A breath of wind on my face brought me back to reality. I walked down stairs into the station and observed the daily performance.  Commuters hurrying to and fro with the sole aim of catching their trains as soon as possible, like automatons drawing a devil circle  around their lives.  I decided to break that frenetic movement, let my train go and have a nice cup of coffee.

At the Station Bar I asked for a coffee making a great effort to imagine the place bright and comfortable. The waiter was visibly bored "part of the robot army", I thought.

I took my cup of coffee to the far-right corner table and sat slowly on one of the seats.

With my back to the bar I tasted my first sip of that dark magic liquid.

Although the station was crowded at that hour there was plenty of room in the café bar. The waiter and I looked like shipwrecked people on a Pacific island far from the main land with nothing to share, not even a smile. I felt lost. My life seemed to have entered in a slow rhythm of death.

An interloper in my own country !

That feeling reminded me of when I was a little girl. My parents decided to emigrate  to Chile and invest their money in some business there since the sister of my father, who had married a Chilean businessman,  had told him Chile was a land of  great opportunities.

After  arriving and suffering the odd feeling of being in a strange place with different people we all started to accept the fact  of  belonging to a new  country. We had lived in Chile for 20 years and I remembered having been a respected and integrated foreigner who studied, got a job, got married and gave birth  two wonderful children, going through the sad and happy situations that make the history of any middle class family.

Uprooted again, this time by my husband, resettled in my original country!

But the Spain of  my memories and dreams pictured in the emigrants imagination  as a lost paradise, appeared menacing on that evening at the station. How far from reality were the dreams of those  men and women who lived looking forward to seeing their homeland again teaching their children  all  the  fantasies they had  been building up  and they wanted to remember but  neglecting   to tell them the dark side of their tale.

I used to tell my colleagues about my life in Chile. They would look at me  with pity, which made me think of  those characters in novels who after being brilliant actresses and having to abandon their  careers live the rest of their lives  talking about the past  in misery and poverty until they pass away. I did not like that ending ! I had been brought up with love and educated to be a positive human being . I had to do something to change my life, to learn how to preserve my dignity and my self-respect. How could I bear that new challenge?   Unfortunately  I had  still no answer. I had joined so many wrong armies ....!

One of those colleagues at work, who was a writer, told me once  that emigrating is somehow like to be born again  in the coldness of the birth in a strange world that you cannot understand without the background given by your family and family friends. You know it is a matter of time  but  sometimes it seems  to you that it is to late to start again.

I was tasting my  coffee  and immerse in my  thoughts when a  loud chatting   caught my attention.  I turned to the bar to see what was going on. There were three children  at the bar they appeared to be  about nine years old. One of them, the tallest, was dark-haired  with  bright dark and defiant eyes. The other two, shorter and fair haired were alike. "They must be brothers" I thought.  The boys looked so much like those poor children  I had met in Chile and Brazil  that they might have belong to the same family. Wearing filthy clothes too large or too small with their dirty worn out shoes too tight or too loose which evidently did not fit them. The children looked as a timeless painting demanding our attention. Was that their  way of asking for help? I did not feel like thinking  about them at all so I went on with my coffee. To  my surprise, and despite the fact that the tables around mine were deserted, the little creatures joined me at mine without asking for permission,  and ignored  my presence completely.  I was astonished. Evidently, the three little monsters wanted to provoke my anger!

They were arguing , a couple of minutes , about the money   they had to buy cigarettes and almost fighting over the one left . I felt transparent. Breathing deeply  I stared at them, took my package of cigarettes lying on the table and offered them to my unwanted companions.

They seemed shocked for a moment, but they immediately reacted and accepted my invitation, taking the cigarettes and keeping silent for a while.

I Glanced at them and could see that cigarettes did not suit childhood. Although they handed them skillfully the cigarettes appeared enormous in their small hands. The smoke made them cough and close their eyes frowning, which drew a picture of comic mockery on their faces. The dark-haired one left the cigarette on the ashtray, took a handful of little objects out of his pocket and whispered to his friends.   Then he displayed the objects on the table, those you can buy in a department store, such as:  ballpoints, key-rings, small mirrors and a long etcetera. " The booty from a thieving expedition," I thought.

"Choose one! The smallest child said to me, showing his toothless smile. His friends nodded  with a happy smile and  sparkling eyes. The boy insisted. "Choose whatever you like", and so as to help me to decide he added, staring at the other to confirm his story, "We have just bought them, haven't we? I could say nothing but "why?.."  "Well",  said  the children almost in unison, " Because you have been good to us". I looked at them tenderly. I felt  overwhelmed.  They were so little and so lonely that a single token of attention would make them happy. Finally I chose a  small, thin metal  ballpoint, which ended up in  chain with a tiny   kind of  bell ball  at the end. I thanked them for such unexpected  gift  and I promised them to keep it with me even if it run out of ink.

They wanted to know about my life so when I started talking about it I was reminded of my own children who would be expecting me home shortly, just like every day.

I looked at my watch. It was about time to go so I told them I had to. Their little faces turned serious and sad. They tried to stop me with more and more questions. As I saw they were disappointed I decided to stay a little bit longer and find out some information about them. Their smiles came back when I showed interest in their lives. They lived in one of the shanty towns near Madrid, two train stations towards East from Cibeles. Their parents had to work so hard to earn a living that the children would   be alone the whole day, until late at night without anybody to take care of them as it was summer and there were not school classes. Accustomed to hostility, they had learnt how to manage to get by. They knew quite well how to defend themselves from the attack of every kind of aggressors. Life was a great adventure for them!

I thought of my children. Thank God they were at home, protected and loved. However much they suffered because of their parents' absence they had their Granny to take care of them.

I stood up and so did my three new friends,  strongly determined to accompany me as far as Torrejón de Ardoz since in their opinion, there were such terrible people in the train that I would be in danger.  They boasted that they were very good bodyguards and that they knew every criminal that traveled on that suburban train. I marched to the platform escorted by three brave street-heroes of 7, 8 and 9 years old who were ready to give their lives to protect mine. I could not believe my eyes! They stared at people menacingly as if to say, "Look out! move aside or you could die!"

Once they had inspected the compartment and saw that everything was right , decided to listen to me and go home. I kissed them when we arrived at their station , I recommended them to be careful, as mothers do. They got off the train and remained waving their grimy little hands until the train faded into the dark of the night.

Happy to have met them and very sad because I had to leave them, I knew I would never be with them again. I sighed and tried to restore my mood. Once I got to Torrejón de Ardoz   and left the station  - in my way back home - I looked at the dark, starry sky, smiled and made a decision..... 

That evening at the station taught me that there is always an answer for your questions. No matter the source, the place or the time, you will always find what you are looking for if you are ready to get it.

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