I am on the night train from Paris to Venice. We boarded at 7:27pm, a bit uncertain. The rooms were muggy, claustrophobically so, and the train older than the others that pulled into the station. I felt like I stepped onto a vintage reel of North by Northwest. To add to the delusion, Nadia and I have been given rooms in two different train cars. I haven't seen her since the Bercy station. My bunk-mate is a sixty year old man who speaks only Italian. He has taken off his coat, revealing an off-white undershirt and a boarish belly. When he is out of the room, I accidentally start drinking from one of his Amerino carbonated water bottles, thinking it is complimentary on the train. When I realize it, I try to cover up my mistake by screwing the cap back on tightly, and disguising the bottle I sipped from behind the other, unopened, one.
He re-enters the cabin, and is somehow drawn right to the fizzy water. Taking one up, he points it towards me. My embarrassment grows: he is offering it to me. Unfortunately, he chooses the wrong bottle. I take it, using my non-existant Italian to best convey my emotions.
Interestingly, his flourish of kidness continues. He asks me, in a word, if I want a “café”. I nod, and follow him down to the back car of the train, past a cluster of dining tables set out with orange tablecloths. Here, a small bar is set up, manned by another Italian. He buys a tall coffee for me, and a short for himself, and we sip them, silently. There are little villages passing by outside the window, and white cows ressting comfortably at the bottom of the hills.