View Through A Train Window

The train slows, passing three yellow balls in the scrub by the trackside, two close together, the other some distance apart, a chance arrangement he seems intensely curious about.
He sits muttering, stirring scraps of paper scattered across his side of the table. I think I can read words, but maybe I’m imagining more than I can see. We pass over a bridge, glimpse a figure below bending over a push chair, a flash of red that might be a child’s coat. Often the embankment blocks the view and he sits fidgeting, until we are again in open country looking out across fields, bare ploughed earth, sunlight struggling through cloud.
A couple opposite cuddle.
She says, ‘I was thinking we never did go to that-‘
He says, ‘Well it’s not kind of like we missed much is it.’
‘Yeah cool’.

We pass the remnants of a felled tree, a pick-up parked near by. Crows wheel above winter fields. In the carriage murmuring voices add to the rhythmic motion of the train.
He stares at me. It’s unnerving. The muttering gets louder.
The couple opposite stare.
‘I remember this. A steady drumming, growing louder. I walked to the window and pulled the curtain aside. Sleet hammered against the panes. I thought the windows might shatter.’ He looks at the torn paper.

With the light fading it’s difficult to see the passing landscape, easier to see our selves. I stare into the gathering darkness, looking at him talking to his own reflection, to me.
‘The room? Think of it this way, the floorboards stained and gouged, walls cracked and flaking, a small square table in the centre, one chair, a single bed, battered mattress, a sleeping bag. I lived, live, a frugal life’.
The darkened window returns his own reflection, reflecting me. I watch his fingers trace a nervous pattern on the carriage table.
‘All I see are wasted lives, wanderers seeking solitude. I understand. I’ve sinned. But why do you keep punishing me like this?’
The young couple opposite are staring. Time to go to the buffet car. They collect their bags, follow me. As we near the carriage door I hear her whisper, ‘Weird.’
From where I’m standing I can see them putting their bags on the rack in the next carriage.
The train slows and people start to gather their belongings together. The buffet car can wait until the train pulls out of the station we’re approaching.

He’s left scraps of paper lying on the table, crudely drawn letters, fragments of words. A man shoves his bag into the overhead rack, drops a paper and novel on the table, sits down. I think I should say something, but I gather the fragments of paper together, carefully lifting the book to retrieve a piece. I tidy the remnants into a neat pile, and wait for the train to depart.