He asked his two coworkers what language they were speaking to each other with. They told him it was Hindi. Two hours later, he asked them in what countries people speak Hindi. They told him Pakistan and India. They were from India. He said he was jealous of their multilingual abilities. They told him to learn other languages by watching foreign films, and that a greeting in Hindi is “Namaste.”
As the end of the shift approached, he asked them if they knew if they were going to continue working after the holidays. One said she didn't know, and the other said they would put her on-call. He said he was going to be on-call too.
They taught him the Hindi word for goodbye. He repeated the word back to them, and forgot what it was five minutes later.
He carried his stuffed backpack up the steps to the train station when it was dark, went to the kiosk and slid in his traveler rewards card. After the round-trip set of tickets printed, he grabbed them, and took a seat on what was his choice of long rows of wooden benches in the lobby. He tried reading two different novels he brought along with him, but couldn't help being distracted by the voices of strangers, and the sounds of freight and commuter trains - mixing echoes off the brick walls, tiled floors, and high wood-beamed ceilings. Eventually, an hour passed. The sun began to rise, and his train to New York was arriving. He stepped outside to greet it.
He boarded the train early, and waited in his seat. He noticed young men, dressed up to look like their fathers, except they wore headphones. As soon as the last commuter's second foot hit the car's floor, the doors pinched shut. The first stop was Washington D.C.. The train plowed into the sunrise between the high-rise buildings, and finally stopped, allowing the aspiring leaders of America to jump off. He changed seats to one freshly vacated with a better window view. He looked through the glass, excited to see the land he hadn't experienced yet. As an attempt to mute the small talk and chit-chat from the surrounding passengers, he slipped in a set of ear plugs.
After a few more metropolitan stops, his car was nearly empty, and mostly quiet, save the crinkly sound of candy wrappers being opened, and his inner monologue asking himself whether or not he should purchase a coffee from the snack car. He talked himself into waiting after when, and if, the conductor came around to collect his ticket.
The smell of leather was strong from all the belts, shoes, purses, suitcases, luggage, and coats. The thought of department stores came into his mind, and how boring, yet pleasant they can be. The simple content made his eyes grow heavy, and the slow rocking of the train, as it glided northward, put him to sleep, like a baby.
The metallic smell of hot electronics woke him up. He found himself in Philadelphia with new passengers, with new problems, and new gadgets. He felt the person behind him typing on their laptop, which was placed on the meal tray attached to the back of his seat. This stole his attention while he held one of his books in his hands, reading only a few lines every few minutes. In between the scholarly stints, he gazed at the passing landscape, and finally mustered up the determination to go get his cup of coffee.
He dreamed about going there all his life. He finally got there, and found he was as lonely as ever. He met a prostitute. She showed him the town, and took him to all her favorite restaurants and clubs. He bought her meals, and drinks, and love. He finally passed out, and managed a few hours of sleep before she called him; hungry and bored.
He picked her up again, because he found he could not say, "no." Then it was the same thing all over again. Food, and drinks, and conversations over loud bands.
Somehow, he woke up again. This time, he called her, because he didn't know if he could manage to get along otherwise. She didn't answer the phone, so he found another prostitute, just as easily as he did the first one. And it's the same. It's always the same, but he did it any way.
Except this time, he didn't sleep. He thought about this place, where he always wanted to go. And this time, he woke up, and he was there.