The train was sweltering. We were traveling from Vienna to France, although this particular train would only take us as far as Germany. Along with our group of 25 and many other miscellaneous travellers, there was a group of 15 or 20 girls. These girls were the catalyst for what I now dub the worst train ride of my life.
For one, they were loud, very loud. As they yelled cheers and sang songs together, I wondered if the consequences for murder were as severe in Europe as they are in North America. They also had no consideration for other people on the train, as they sprayed hair spray and painted their nails in the very confined train that had no openable windows. Luckily none of them sat next to me, instead I was with a different man who’s name I never caught.
We didn’t talk much, maybe 10 words all together, but the bond we formed on that train was one or true suffering, one I will remember for the rest of my life. Misery loves company as they say. It started when the girls sang their first song together; we shared a look of annoyance and both rolled our eyes as our ears were assaulted with multiple high, cheery voices. As the train got hotter, we shared sighs of torment as we fanned ourselves for dear life. When our ears popped from pressure changes, I offered him a piece of gum, the only verbal interaction we had.
In the end I never got his name, I never even learned what language he spoke. Yet in that moment we understood each other; we were comrades in agony. Suffering is universal, regardless of your background, and that day I discovered that you do not need to understand a person’s language to understand them.