The Sad Stranger Who Illuminated Our Starlight Train
We were giddy new parents on a coastal jaunt. He was an ageless man on his third bottle of the day, and his sordid stories filled the dining car with a gravity I’ll never forget.
Illustrations by Andrew Standeven
Outside the window of our Coast Starlight compartment, little towns along the track flicker in and out of view. They look forsaken and forlorn, but here in our private Superliner Roomette, we're feeling free. We are drinking Champagne out of plastic glasses. We are alone, our first trip without children since our first daughter arrived, four joyous, relentless years ago.
A voice sparks through the intercom: our table in the dining car is ready. My husband stops by the bathroom while I walk on. The attendant leads me to a booth that is already occupied, and gestures for me to sit down. This isn’t at all what I had in mind. I don’t want to share our precious private time with a stranger, but perhaps it’s train protocol to seat solo travelers with others. It feels rude to refuse.
“You look Latin,” he says. His snowy-white hair hangs to his shoulders and the way he reflexively flips it off his forehead reminds me of teenage surfers, casually cool. We’d passe…