I was young. And as free as I had ever felt. Traveling across the world alone for the first time, ever. In a familiar place I had once called home. Speaking a familiar language I had once used as my first.
Two suitcases, and a long skinny bag stuffed with my snowboard and all of my gear. Waiting in a filled train station, several feet of snow covering the ground outside. Surrounded by people yet all by myself.
“Can I borrow your phone” I asked a stranger, first in their native language and when that received no for an answer I tried using English as if the Swedes would easier loan a foreigner their precious phone. Still no luck.
A young boy came over, handing me a phone, “thank you so much” I said. He smiled. I made a quick call informing my friends of my soon to be arrival times.
I handed back the phone, with a gracious thanks and he nodded back with the widest grin. I asked him his name. He had an accent. And I cannot now remember his answer. What I do remember is him smiling, a lot.
The train tumbled into the station and hurried Swedes looked straight ahead and rushed onboard. I started gathering my large load when he grabbed two of my bags and headed for the train. I followed closely behind.
I was not familiar with trains or tickets or cars or the car number and seat number that was given on the ticket. So, we jumped on the first car and it was packed. We squeezed through the first car jumbling my large load and preceded through the next. Until we finally found a car with enough room for my bags and us to take a seat.
It was quiet at first. As the train slowly took off from the station I watched outside as the city lights disappeared and only darkness enveloped us.
When I got up enough courage, I asked him. “Where are you from” he smiled and then, “Do you know English” his answer was a side to side head shake.
”That’s why you smile so much” and of course, smile.
And so for three hours we talked in a language I have yet to experience again. I learned he lived in Paris, with some friends. He learned I was from America and I wasn’t used to traveling by train. He was traveling around Europe. He wants to come to the USA someday. I want to visit France.
We laughed so hard a few times and I wish I remember what about.
And then the distant lights. And then not so distant. And soon we were surrounded by the city again. The train screeched into my station and it was over.
He didn’t ask for my contact info. I didn’t ask for his.
He loaded all of my bags off of the train as I gathered my small belongings. We stood outside the train for a moment and then we motioned goodbye. He turned around and stepped in the car, waving again.
Without any language I had made a friend.
I cannot remember his name, I don’t know if I would recognize his face. But the memory is mine to keep.