There Was this Moment  Patrick Sheehan


There was this moment on the train to Caprezi. The train sliced through hills toasted brown, and the sun that toasted them angled golden across our laps.


We sat side by side, Wendy and I, all alone in a posh little cabin of wood and maroon and glass. She stared out the window at fields of great tall sunflowers with their faces all turned to the sun. There was a black dog in the field of sunflowers leaping, leaping, but not quite reaching their crowned heads.


The train groaned to a halt in a little village of empty plazas and sunbright walls and curtained windows, and then the train pushed on into the hills again. We passed a hilltop villa with a terra cotta roof and white walls laced with vines. There were grapevines on stakes in the garden and a few sharp Italian pines pointing at the bleached sky. The sun angling in the window turned Wendy's hair from brown to blond.


A girl opened the door to our cabin and stood for just a moment, regarding us. She had blond curls, chaotic and perfect, a fine Renaissance nose and wistful eyes, like she'd just stepped out of a Botticelli. She wore a translucent yellow sundress, and I could see the lines of her body against the dress, the dark prominence of her nipples, the shadow between her legs.


She came in, and a boy followed just behind her. They must have got on in that little village back there. They sat across from us. They were young like us, and they smiled at us, and we smiled back. There seemed like a moment when we ought to talk, but we didn't. I think they were Tuscan: blond and brown-eyed with skin the color of a latte. His hair was long and straight. He wore a silk shirt open to his hairless chest, linen trousers, espadrilles without socks. He sat with his legs crossed at the knees and whined in lacey Italian to the girl.


She didn't reply to the lacey boy, and he didn't seem to mind. He just turned and looked out the window at, now, sunflowers again. Wendy looked out the window, too. Me, I looked at this Tuscan girl, and she looked back at me.


The train wobbled and the wheels clicked on the tracks, and she held my gaze until my heart got small and tight and moved up into my throat. I wanted to say something, but I couldn't then, not with my heart in my throat like that, even if I knew what to say, which I didn't. Then she glanced at Wendy beside me, a summary glance. She smiled slightly and looked out at the sunflowers.


The train went on like that for a long time, the three of them there with the sun on their faces looking out at the sunflowers and the toasted hills and the pale sky. I watched them until we reached the mountain and disappeared into the tunnel before Caprezi, and then I couldn't see anyone anymore.