Sunday, July 22, 2007

Something happening I can't remember. Then daylight and I'm in a dormitory with cubicles plain white walls and bare. I've been staying temporarily as a visitor with some dancers. They take no notice of me: I don't speak their language. I'm getting ready to leave, waiting for my son to tell me the way to the station. He tells me it's a short walk away. As I walk along the platform with soldiers and others, I accidentally hit the leg of an officer with the corner of my small suitcase. I apologise. He makes out it's of no consequence, but I notice he's now limping. It's a bright sunny day. The train is in, but I see that many of the carriages are full. My son urges me to get quickly into the last carriage as the train is ready to depart. I step onto a broad wooden step - a much extended running-board - at the doorway of the carriage but there's no door. I stand there and there's just time to say 'I hope I see you again soon'.

The carriage is an old wooden one, crudely furnished with various cheap chairs and benches. The seats are mostly taken. There's a compartment with beds with people stretched out on them covered with grey blankets. Some people are sitting at little tables laid for dinner. I can't sit there: I haven't got any money. To get to a seat I have to climb over a row of spindly chairs with high backs. There are several people sitting on them. The row of chairs goes right across the carriage. I try to throw one leg over the back of a chair. But I can't do it and say to a woman sitting there, 'I'm not a dancer'. She doesn't understand that I'm explaining why I can't climb over them that way. When I have climbed over, rather clumsily, I tell her I'm only a social dancer. Finally I get to sit down.

Almost immediately a man's voice calls out 'Silence!' Two men come in carrying a stretcher with a dead soldier on it, lifting it above our heads. Then two more come in with another stretcher, with a seriously wounded soldier on it. Behind me, as he deposits the dead body on the side of the railway track one of the men is saying 'What else can I do, other than dust it with chalk?'.

The sadness of parting with my son wakes me.

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