‘Warum nicht?’ I answer, as if on auto pilot. And I see a wide smile cross Rainer’s big square face, made it cuter by dimples on his shriveling cheeks and his small baby teeth. As if saying: That a boy! So we order another bottle. At around five thirty, I go upstairs to my room, pick up my suitcase, pay DM 230.- (approx. $115.-) for the room and whoever is still around, practically roll me back to the station and wave until the train slides out of the platform in the early morning fog.  One would think there would be nobody on the train that early on a Sunday morning. But there is a group of rambunctious youngsters. So I upgrade myself to the first class, slide doors shut, pull the curtains close and crash like a sand bag.

I have always loved trains at the night and the rhythm of their synchronized motion.  It lulls me to deep sleep almost right away. Relaxed, exhausted and deprived of  sleep all week long, I slip into a comfortable semi-coma. When I regain consciousness, all I sense is the total darkness and the pin drop silence. The train is stand still. Probably waiting its turn on the embankment, I think. Not even a peep, nor a sliver of light coming through.  Now I feel the train moving a little bit. And then I feel it stopping, suddenly. Following that, there is a loud thumping on the locked doors of my compartment.

Hamburg, Hamburg. End station. Bitte aussteigen.’ I am not sure, if this is real or it’s a dream. But the knocking continues, like the pounding of a heavy hammer. I spring up like  Jack in the Box. Disoriented no more, I slide the curtains and open the door.

‘Gott sei dank. Sie sind da. Hamburg. Aussteigen sie bitte.’  Seeing me well and alive, the conductor looks relieved. Frazzled, he tells me that if not for my friends on the platform, I would have ended up at the nearby train depot, nestled between half a dozen other idled trains. As I emerge from my car, Michelle flashes her sweet dimpled smile. They scurry me over to the airport right away. I check in first and then we sit in a café to have some breakfast.

No dramas or the time crunch with connecting in Frankfurt. We land in Chicago on time at around three in the afternoon. It is past four when I make it back home. I set the alarm and stretch out on my soothingly warm water bed. I am picking up Meinard and Auke for dinner at 19:30.  I feel energized as I walk to the garage. I put the key in the ignition of Nora Nissan,  as I call my car. The engine squawks, as if in excruciating pain and I hear the fan turning once or twice. And then the hood shudders sideways and pfffft. Sudden death!   

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Jordan Rutherford

Next Friday, March 29, 2013

THE STORY OF MY TUXEDO

Up until then I had successfully avoided having to buy my own tux. Cheap? Also. Cultural antipathy? Maybe. But mainly because I never saw any sense in owning something that I would wear less times through my entire life than I could count on my fingers. And I could always rent one if I must.

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