About two years ago I was riding a train from Warsaw to Krakow, in Poland. We had decided to take the earliest train possible for monetary reasons, meaning that we were short on cash at the time. Or that we were in a cheap phase of our trip.
The departure was so early and it was so cold and dark our brains could barely function. Just about when I was damning the axis of the earth for the freezing temperatures, the train arrived. We found ourselves in a wooden train compartment, just the two of us, eyes squinting with sleep but with enough attention to notice the scene felt like an old detective movie, from Cold War times. Perhaps the train was from those times. We closed the sliding doors and fell asleep.
At one point, I woke up and looked up (maybe in search of sunlight) and realized our backpacks were no longer where we had put them. Without the energy to move a muscle, I screamed to wake him from his sleep. He tried to explain to an employee what had happened in his beginner’s Polish but there was no solace. The backpacks were gone.
Their content: a bottle of perfume, flip-flops, a diary, underwear, toiletries, snacks, maps, dirty clothes in a plastic bag (mine); a second-hand jacket, food, a nail clipper, a book, sunglasses (his).
Looking out the window over the white-covered fields, the thought of my purple backpack standing alone, buried in the snow was too much for me. Would it ever be found? Would it be forgotten in the middle of the Polish countryside up until when, maybe one day, mischievous children running away from their parents would find it and keep it for its unusual color?
The thief couldn’t keep it, for he would have easily been caught by the train police. I guess ordinary Poles wouldn’t normally wear such an item on such an early and cheap train in the middle of winter. It would have looked suspicious.
But the backpacks were found, no Polish child would be cheered by no bright color from abroad. The things that had been stolen: my perfume, the flip-flops, the nail clipper, a razor blade and the second-hand jacket. I thought the thief was at that moment grooming and dressing up for an early hot date in Krakow. Perhaps he needed the foreign help to look better. But that thought didn’t help.