Mr. Faux was a man of the world, just as all the other occupants of Fort Appearance who found themselves entangled in a global enterprise that required business travel from time to time. While he himself was no stranger to travel—in fact one could argue that Mr. Faux has been a veritable and experienced traveler since his early childhood—travelling for work was surprisingly quite new to him.
He boarded the train, one that has taken him to and from Fort Lumière in the past, but this time with an unfamiliar sense of formality that for the first time made him belong to this crowd. The train, whose pristine heritage was suggested by its immaculate interior and excellent amenities, was almost full and by glancing at nearby passengers and their belongings Mr. Faux deduced “pleasure” shan’t be the theme of the ride. Hoisting his luggage to the overhead storage, he noticed a weary man in his 40s lumped in the aisle seat that was meant for him. Mr. Faux politely asked the person to vacate the seat but afterwards felt sorry for the gentleman who was now curled up in an uncomfortable position in the adjoining window seat, with his head leaned against the wall and legs folded as to not disturb the other man sitting opposite to him. Mr. Faux, conversely, sat down and extended his legs in comfort as luckily the seat opposite to him was empty.
A laptop, a thermos, a folding armrest; Mr. Faux would spend his next 200 minutes shifting between semiconscious reading and quasiconscious sleep. A beanie, a newspaper, a lose socket; the gentleman diagonal to Mr. Faux would perform the struggle of the century between man and malfunctioning electronics. A window seat, a window seat, a window seat; the weary traveler would soon leave and never to be seen again throughout the journey.
Thursday night in the rain, a train transporting presumably 90 percent, if not more, business travelers just like yesterday and the day before had a somber and heavy atmosphere that permeated throughout carriages. One passenger sitting across the aisle was entranced by the PowerPoint on his laptop while another one typed away profusely on her iPad. Mr. Faux stopped by the dining car for refreshments and found most patrons were far from refreshed but rather intensified. Passengers of this train had a very distinguishable common feature: emotional and physical fatigue. Those who were awake put on an expressionless face and those who were asleep had Mr. Faux question the implication of 7 p.m. It was quite understandable, he thought. As a veritable and experienced traveler himself, Mr. Faux had seen livelier travel companions exclusively on Fridays, with their faces lit up more often either messaging or talking on the phone to their loved ones. More often than not, modern travelers have become accustomed to focusing entirely on the destination and ignoring the journey altogether.
The carriage was too quiet. No one was speaking and almost everyone had a pair of headphones on, completely immersed in their own worlds. Mr. Faux looked at the empty seat next to him and gradually moved his gaze over to the window—a translucent canvas covered with raindrops that trailed across its surface to obscure the dimly lit skyline. Some raindrops were too obstinate to dissolve and within each, a reflection of the landscape materialized and flickered. He remembered when he was younger and when travel was not yet an integral part of his life, every train ride was first a luxury and second a fantastic journey to him—beginning with purchasing window seats.
Looking out the window to notice the change of landscape and the movement of clouds was a fond memory that Mr. Faux could recall in great details. Always sitting next to the window whenever possible was considered the norm, even an advantage—a ticket that cost the same but with a view. However, those days were no more as Mr. Faux’s preference for seating has changed and train rides have become more of a hassle than enjoyment; he traded the view for some extra leg room in the aisle and the freedom to stand up and move around at will. Still looking at the window and what lied beyond, Mr. Faux realized what a beautiful scene it was even at a rainy Thursday night; however, the now empty window seat just next to him had no appeal to him whatsoever. He turned his head the other way and tried to lull his elusive drowsiness into actual sleep, albeit with a slight regret that circumstances have made train rides less delightful than before.
Or perhaps it was a matter of perspective, Mr. Faux thought and still couldn’t fall asleep yet. The world hasn’t changed whereas he has; the similar train ride where he hogged the window seat to curiously observe and dashed to the dining car as if going to a Michelin restaurant was simply a different world view of a younger and simpler self.
His 10-year-old self would have been amazed by this modern train and enthralled by the gorgeous view, but Mr. Faux knew it had been a time beyond which there could be no turning back. Travel was no longer a luxury but as of late a requisite for a functioning life; it was also no longer a novelty but a dreariness to be killed off. Just like other fellow passengers, Mr. Faux has become one to avert the journey; maybe unlike other fellow passengers, Mr. Faux still yearned for a long train ride whose only purpose was just to enjoy.