It was dark outside the train window, and even if you could see, all you could be seeing was snow. Houses covered in snow, roads covered in snow, cars covered in snow, and trees covered in snow. Life covered in snow.
In the months following my divorce, I preferred to be left alone to myself. The only reason I paid the extra money for a first-class ticket was to keep human contact to a minimum. This wasn’t one of those train journeys I was looking forward to. Thanks to the heavy snowing over the weekend. The train was half-empty, mostly filled with the families going across the borders for the holidays. Happy families with kids, I imagine.
It was a pleasantly lonely journey until this woman, whom I disliked in the first moment I saw her, entered my cabin. The way she opened that door with a bang was the first thing I hated about her.
It shook me out of my stupor. She brought in a fresh smell of coffee. I would have enjoyed the aroma if not for my instant judgment about her.
“Hello, I am Monica,” she said and extended her right hand. Her left hand was carrying a briefcase. The ease with which she carried suggested it was probably half empty.
“Hello, I am Sarah,” I said.
She did not close the door.
She settled her briefcase on the seat. Then she took off her jacket and a layer of clothes.
Underneath, she was wearing a t-shirt that exposed her bare arms.
The door was still open.
It wasn’t hard to notice the scars on both her forearms contrasting with her pale, lifeless arms. Dark scars forming two barcode-like patterns, one below the other. It wasn’t pleasant to look at them, but once you saw them, there was no way of not seeing them. I don’t know for how long I scanned them, but I was sure I made her feel uncomfortable before I got up and shut the door myself.
There was no sorry from her. She had an air of carelessness around her that was evident from the moment I saw her standing in that door and making sure she was in the right cabin. I have a feeling she would have just gotten in as confidently even if it weren’t her seat.
I got back to my seat. She was now looking straight into the darkness, and my eyes again fell on those scars. This time she was sitting right below the light coming from the overhead bulb. Her hands were loosely set on her lap as if they were things she carried apart from her body. I scanned the scars again for any signs of a pattern. Probably she was into a cult that required a ritual like that.
Before I knew it, I fell asleep. In the dream, I was stuck in a dark, small room. Holding my chin against my knees and hands wrapped around my legs. I wasn’t sure why I was in that room or for how long I was crying. I got up after I saw a bright light shine through a window. The window was broken, and I pulled a small piece of glass hanging inside a spider’s web. Before I knew it was on my skin, delicately cutting through my forehand as the warm blood oozed through the opening. A strange sense of relief took over my body. For the first time in many months, my mind was at peace as it rejoiced in physical pain.
Right then, I was woken up when her briefcase fell onto the floor. She was still asleep with her hands folded on her breasts that were expanding and collapsing with the rhythm of her breathing. I took the suitcase off the floor, and when I was about to put it back, she woke up. She nodded carelessly and went back to sleep instantly.
I got up, took my handbag, and started walking towards the restroom. I had to shake that nightmare off my body. My hand was still hurting. But hurting pleasantly. Before I knew it, I switched off the light in the restroom. My hands were searching for the Swiss Army knife in my handbag.
That was the first time I hurt myself. And I knew it wasn’t going to be the last.