Crossing the Mississippi (the first time)
I’m on the train again, headed to Omaha, Nebraska to visit relatives. Let’s rewind to 4 days ago for a quick catch-up.
Friday, October 15 - Monday, October 18
Not long after enjoying the beautiful sunrise in Nebraska, James walked into the lounge car. I met James the night before, as we rolled out of Denver. A lot of people got on at Denver - young people. The train had been empty and old up to that point. Watching my peers board, I got so excited. In an instant, I visualized the next 20 hours of the trip with these new friends. We would share our stories, drink, play cards, look out the window together, ask abstract questions, exchange contact information, and part with warm but tentative hugs. And that’s pretty much what happened.
I met one young woman named Bette who is an aspiring artist - she studied fashion design in Los Angeles. Bette had never heard of Etsy (an online marketplace for people who make things - especially arts and crafts). I couldn’t believe it. Obviously, after living in Silicon Valley my entire adult life, I’ve had to learn not to assume people know every nook and cranny of the Internet.1 But this was outrageous. How is it that not one of her professors at the Fashion Institute told their students about Etsy?
The train was running a couple hours late by the time we crossed into Illinois. Although I was excited to get to Chicago, I was surprised to notice that I wasn’t impatient. I was enjoying the last moments of the journey, and I had no reason to feel rushed. This calm excitement lasted through my walk to the wedding hotel and the taxi ride to the restaurant where the rehearsal dinner was being held. Then I pushed open the restaurant door, saw my smiling friends and a waiting feast, and my heart exploded.
All of the feelings that had been built up by my long and wonderful journey were freed, and the result was electrifying. The rest of the weekend was a party during which I was living on a level I hadn’t known before. I was enthusiastic, strong, and feeling everything. I sang with friends for the first time that weekend.2
Aniruddh and Rebecca left for their honeymoon on Sunday; but my train and Aniruddh’s sister’s flight weren’t for some time, so they let us stay in their home until our departures. We walked around Wicker Park in the evening and had good ice cream in the afternoon, but I’ll remember doing dishes together. Amazingly, I never knew doing dishes could be a shared activity. Someone washes and someone dries and puts them away. I think it might take more time than just washing them and leaving them to drip overnight like I’ve always done, but it’s so much more enjoyable. It feels silly to write this, but we don’t get to choose which memories make an impression on us.
Tuesday, October 19
The whole world got on the train at Chicago Union Station today.
After some writing in the lounge car, I returned to my coach seat for a nap and to work on the Sari Saheli website. A crew member bothered me about having moved seats; but I needed a power outlet, so I would have battled the Conductor in hand-to-hand combat to keep my seat. I arrived in Omaha around 11pm, where my uncle picked me up. I ate an apple and some spinach and went to bed smiling. I have a good feeling about this visit.
As I type this word - heading to Omaha three days after meeting her on the way to Chicago - Bette walks into the lounge car of the train I’m on now. She’s sitting across the table from me, reading her book, as I write about her. Trains are made of magic. ↩
I’m aware that I’m referring to “this weekend” as “that weekend”. I don’t know why it feels so long ago already. ↩