Night Train to ParisbyGarageGirl©
It's late, nearly 11, on an early November night. The chill on the platform of the Hamburg train station is penetrating, a damp, German cold that soaks up through the soles of your shoes, no matter how stout, and ends up in your bones. The cold air is only accentuating the typical train station smell--that smell of electricity, cigarettes, cinders, cheap food, all lightly overlaid with the weariness of travelers. They're waiting for the night express to Paris and as they wait, they size each other up, hands thrust deep in coat pockets, and noses buried in mufflers. Who will they end up sharing a compartment with tonight? Whose snores or cries in the night will they hear before they find themselves in the City of Light in the morning light? That man over, there, the one hastily consuming a Bratwurst, before the train arrives, is he going to be a companion of the night? Or the woman who is smoking unfiltered Gauloises, is she going to end up scenting the air you have to breathe? And whom would you choose, given the choice? Go the safe route, and hope for the matron in the loden coat, or be a bit racier, and wish for the slender, dark-haired man, wearing a dark trench?
The headlights of the train finally appear, well before schedule, to the relief of all. Bags are gathered up, purses hoisted onto shoulders, snacks and magazines tucked away, cigarettes extinguished. A general bracing of shoulders takes place; train travel is still at least a little athletic, and some small degree of preparation is necessary. L. sighs, pulls her coat straight, picks up her red bag, and sizes up the crowd for the door she's waiting near. It doesn't matter anyway, she has an assigned berth, but she still wonders. She checks her ticket one more time, to make sure she knows where she's going, and then, with the usual hiss and screech, the train pulls in, the doors open and the passengers begin to enter.
She's sprung for a two-person berth, but saved a bit of cash by not specifying the sex of her berth-mate. (To share a compartment with another woman costs more. She's willing to take her chances on her ability to defend herself, if it comes to that, and if it really comes to that, on her ability to pull the brake cord). After 30 years of travel on German trains, off and on, she's aware that it's a crap shoot, she can get anyone from a shy teenager to a sodden businessman, but since she's only planning on sleeping, she's not too concerned.
Into the train, down the corridor, checking numbers against her ticket. Three cars on, this is the place, 47, her home for the night. Oh, and she's reached it before her partner for the night, one M. Kuhn. Well, there's a name that doesn't say much, it could be anyone. What has she been assigned, top or bottom? She sincerely hopes for the bottom, since the notion of crawling over someone in the night en route to the bathroom is less than appealing. Ah, yes, it is the bottom, how nice, she's hit the jackpot. Her coat hung up in the tiny closet, she removes her necessities--passport, toothbrush, what will be her pajamas for the night. As she's doing this, the door opens, and the man in the trench coat from the platform enters. She greets him in German, only to receive a blank and somewhat nervous stare. She asks him, again in German, if he's Mr. Kuhn, and only at the sound of his name does his face clear at least a little.
"Do you speak English?" he asks. "I have a German name, but I don't speak any German." He is really exceptionally attractive--warm brown eyes, black hair flecked with silver, and a truly winning smile.
She smiles back, almost in spite of herself, it being her practice to hold back as much as possible in situations like this, and says, "Well, in fact, I'm American, too." He looks at once relieved and as though he wants to seem too cool to need to be relieved, and asks how the whole thing with the sleeping compartment works. He is extremely engaging, and she finds herself in laughing conversation with him.
The train begins to move as L. is saying, "So, we have a couple of options now--we can leave the seats as they are, and sit here and peruse our respective reading matter. We can make the seats into berths, say goodnight and climb into them, and then listen to each other breathe until we fall asleep, or we can go to the dining car and see if they have any wine for us." She can't believe those words came out of her mouth--she's not in the habit of even semi-propositioning strange men on trains, but old M. Kuhn here seems to bring it out in her. As she watches him consider the options, she hardly breathes, so anxious is she for him to choose three. Or even two. Or one, for that matter, because no matter what, she realizes, with an internal giggle, he's hers for the night.
"The dining car thing sounds good," he says, finally, with a smile playing about his excellently cut mouth, "but maybe we can find some beer. I'm really not much for wine." She allows as how he might be in the right country, and, after stashing their luggage, heads down the swaying corridor.
As they totter along, bracing themselves against the movement of the train, L. manages to glance out the window. They are passing the docks, with all the lights of the ships, and of the bridges. She tugs at his sleeve to stop, and made him look at them as the train rocked past. "Hamburg is one of the great ports of Germany," she tells him, "and one of the old Hansa cities." Then she realizes that not everyone shares her passion for the poetry of industry, and, shaking her head, says, "and I'm sure you're infinitely more interested in getting a beer." He smiles warmly at her, and assures her that anything he could learn was good, but added that, yes, a beer would be nice and they could still look at the lights from there.
The dining car us open till midnight, and two beers are speedily served. And then there they are, two strangers on a train, sitting opposite each other, with nothing to do but drink and talk, with the knowledge that they would be spending the whole night together between them.
L. had once been shy, but has long since decided that it was a luxury she could no longer afford, so she sets about drawing him out. M. Kuhn (she still doesn't know his first name) has clearly never been shy a day in his life, and doesn't take much drawing out. In fact, his barrage of questions remind her of nothing so much as a six-year-old, just discovering the world, and wanting to know EVERYTHING.
L. has something of a horror of hearing her own voice going on and on, and so she is indeed horrified to hear herself announcing that her husband was killed in an industrial accident, her children were grown and leading their own lives, and so she had taken her settlement and moved to Stade, a town she had loved her whole life, and was attempting to write a novel there. In fact, she's so horrified that she closes her mouth with a snap and says, "And now tell me how you came to be on this train."
He looks abashed. This is a man who asks the questions, not one who answers them, but she sees something click in his head and understands that he's decided to tell the truth, no matter how jumbled, odd and difficult that might be.
He was recently divorced, he tells her, after nearly twenty years of marriage. A fairly acrimonious divorce, he adds, and leaves it at that. When it was finally done, he wanted to do something he'd never done before, so he decided to look into his own past. Not his own past, exactly, but the past of his family.
"I'm Jewish," he said to her, earnestly. "Every Jew in the world wants to go to Israel, and so do I, but one of my cousins is into genealogy, and when I asked her, she said that our family had lived in Germany for nearly 400 years before they came to America. So I decided to go there first." She asks if he found anything, and he says not much, there was not much to be found, but that it was interesting anyway.
"But that didn't get you onto the night train to Paris," she says.
"I'm going to Paris to spend a little time by myself,and then my children are going to come meet me and we'll having Thanksgiving in Paris." He pauses, takes a drink of his beer, then says, "Their mother isn't very happy about that, but she wasn't very happy for the last 15 years, so I'm used to it. Why are you going to Paris?"
"To meet an old friend," she tells him, and wonders why he looks marginally less twinkly. Even telling the story of his divorce hadn't taken the glow out of his eyes quite the way that did. "Oh!" she says. "A girlfriend. One of my oldest friends is in Paris on business, and I'm going to spend a long weekend with her." He has an "Ah!" look on his face, but neither one of them can think of a thing to say for the moment.
As L. is casting about for something to say, she notices the waiter, who is standing with his arms crossed, giving them the international, I'm glad you're having fun, but I have work to do look. "I think he wants us to leave," she tells M. Kuhn, then says, "What's your first name, anyway?"
"Matt. My name is Matt. First find out if the waiter will sell us some more beer to take back with us to the compartment, and then tell me your name."
"I don't think there's a soul in Germany who's not willing to sell you beer at any hour of the day or night," she tells him, "and my name is Liz."
Armed with four more bottles of beer, and two beer glasses--the waiter insisted, so pleased was he to be getting rid of them--they head back to the compartment. This time, she fancies, Matt is staying a bit closer to her. The train is on a long, smooth section of track, so there's not a lot of swaying, but there is some accidental touching and bumping anyway. She feels rather as though she imagines a dog who chases cars might, if he caught one: I've got him, now what do I do with him?
The berths are not yet folded down, so they can still sit up and drink. As they sit, he pours the beers for both, then finds the switch to lower the lights in the compartment. "It's nicer like this," he says. "And we can look at the lights outside as they go by."
With the lights out, it's easier to talk. His voice is warm and deep, and she finds herself thinking, I could wrap that voice around me just like a blanket. They talk about everything, it seems....their childhoods, their children, American politics, the funny things that happened to him as an American in Germany with a German name, but no German comprehension.
It's 12:30 and the beer is gone. "They wake us up at about 7:30," she tells him, and reaches for the glasses and bottles at the same time he does. Their hands touch, and neither one of them pulls away. In the half-light, he holds her gaze, and then slips his hand over hers. It's big and warm and feels very familiar, somehow.
"Let's just sit a little longer," he says, and so they do, holding hands in a sleeper compartment of a German train en route to Paris.
Time has passed. Five minutes? Ten minutes? His hand has moved, and he's now caressing the inside of her wrist, something that feels amazingly seductive. Her heart is pounding--what now? What on earth do you do now? Make love with a stranger? Pull your hand away as though shocked? Lean over and kiss him? Her whole being feels centered in her wrist and between the beer, the late hour, the steady rhythm of the train on the tracks and her amazement that this is happening at all, she feels quite disoriented. Things like this don't happen to me, she thinks. I was going to meet Sarah in Paris, stuff myself on croissants, walk miles and giggle like a teenager, I wasn't going to meet a tall, dark stranger on the night train. That doesn't happen.
"Things like this don't happen to me," she hears him say, and he stands up, not letting go of her hand, and pulls her to him. It's harder than it seems, to hug someone on a train, let alone someone who is little more than a stranger.
"Not to me either," she says, "but it's happening now, to us."
"Yup," he says, rather prosaically, and then kisses her.
A knock at the door interrupts them, and he looks very startled and slightly guilty, as though he's been caught at something. It's the conductor, wanting to turn the seats to beds. Liz tells him to come in. He does so. They step out into the corridor while he works his magic. Neither one of them knows quite what to say, or to do with themselves. As he leaves, he looks them both up and down, touches the brim of his hat and says, "Now get on with what you were doing," and winks. They look at each other with smothered grins, and step back into the compartment.
It's a bedroom now, amazingly enough. The seats are gone, and there are bunk beds, with real sheets and plaid blankets and pillows, and it has that industrial bed-linen smell, too. Now what?
He answers that question by pulling her to him again, and murmuring against her hair, before he kisses her again, "How convenient." And then it's as though nothing had happened at all, he's kissing her again, and she's loving it. He slides his hand under her sweater at the back, rubbing up and down her bare skin, and then moves it around to the front and to her breast. She pulls her mouth slightly away from him and traces his bottom lip with her tongue. It's his turn to moan. Emboldened by this, she moves on to that most sensitive spot, where the jawbone ends, just below the ear, and begins to lick and gently suck there. A sharp exhalation tells her she's doing it right. The exhalation and the way his hand tightens over her breast.
Then it's his turn to pull away, and say, "Take off your shoes. And put your jewelry on the table, so I don't end up swallowing an earring or something." To her surprise, she enjoys being ordered like this, so she does it. He takes his own shoes off, and then sort of indicates that she should get into the berth.
"What are we doing?" she asks, confused.
He looks exasperated and says, "I'm not making out standing up all night long if there's a bed. And I'm trying to be a gentleman and let you in first so if we take sharp curve you don't fall out--!"
The light dawns, and she climbs in, and he follows. There's the usual awkwardness of arms and legs, and then they relax into the pure luxury of what's happening. They're still fully clothed, but negotiating undressing at this point is more than either of them feel capable of. They begin kissing again, neither one of them initiating it this time, and now, relaxed, lying down, with the rhythm of the train working for them instead of against them, it feels less urgent, and much more sensual. When he slips his tongue into her mouth again, she begins sucking on it hard, taking it as deep as she can and he participates fully by moving it in and out. Tongues get tired, though, so they move on to other, less vigorous lingual activities.
She traces the length of his neck, ending at his collarbone, which requires a bit of rummaging, so he obligingly takes off his shirt. Now she's able to trail her tongue down his chest, flicking at a nipple, then returning there for more than a flick and then going back up to his mouth.
This time he's voracious. She feels as though she's being consumed, and she clings to him for dear life. He's trying to get her sweater off her, and she helps him, thanking God as she does so that a trip to Paris has inspired her to wear matching underwear and to shave her legs. Her sweater gone, for a moment, he runs his hands up and down her bare back, then is clearly annoyed by the barrier of her bra, so he unhooks it, one-handed. (Shades of the Fonz). She disentangles herself from it, thinking not for the first time, that it is as undignified to get out of as it is useful. His hands close over the soft abundance of her breasts, his thumbs caressing her nipples. Her moan is so heart-felt that he whispers, with some urgency, "Did I hurt you?"
"NO," she answers, "just go on..."
She's in it now, there's no going back, no saying, I think you were mistaken about what this night was going to be like, no pretending to be a virtuous widow, or whatever it was that she thought she might end up doing. She wants more, she wants to be greedy and wallow in skin and scents and textures and feelings, she wants to pounce and be pounced upon, she wants to rush, then linger, then rush...and maybe scratch and bite a little while she's at it. She feels herself trying to pour all of this into Matt's head, because for one thing, her mouth is occupied, and for another, she can barely remember where she is or why, much less make a coherent thought. He must have caught on to something, or he's thinking the same thing, because suddenly, his voice is in her ear, so close that it buzzes,
"Tell me you want me to do everything...say it, say, do it all, Matthew." Whoa, what? Okay, fine.
"Do it all, Matthew," she says in a voice that would have made Linda Lovelace proud. Except she's not acting.
"I hope we never get to Paris," he says.
In the spirit of more, she reaches down to undo his pants. Buckle, button, zipper. She has always loved the sound of a man's belt buckle being undone...it's definitely intimate, you don't undo your belt in front of just anyone, and it promises such good things. It's like the sound of the bow being undone on a package. She manages to unfasten it, and hears the welcome "clink" as metal hits metal.
"Go on?" she whispers.
"Of course," he answers, somewhat urgently. So she does. Ah... she traces with her hand what she finds there, more than pleased with the measure of the man.
It's been a while for this, too, and a long, long time with anyone other than her husband. New territory, then. She wound her hand around, and then slid it up and down...ah....how nice. A visit to the boys, also nice, but all this still relatively chastely through his boxer briefs. And she's half-naked, but wearing a skirt, and that feels very overdressed right now. "Hold on," she whispers, and performs the complicated maneuver of getting out of a skirt and pantyhose in a train bunk, with another person. It works, though, she's down to her underwear, and inspired, he takes off his pants.
It feels amazing, warm skin on warm skin, scent and texture, and more than anything, closeness. No wonder a euphemism for sex is "being intimate", this feels more intimate than anything she's ever done, including what had been a perfectly adequate married sex life. Their hands are sliding everywhere on each other, their mouths are everywhere. She starts licking her way down one of his arms, pausing at the crook of the elbow, sucking and kissing there for a while, then moves down the length of his forearm, and to his hand. Slowly, leisurely, she takes each of his fingers in her mouth and slowly sucks on them, and then moves back up.
He's inflamed, electrified, he's not being rough, but he's certainly not being overly gentle. And that's fine. Right now she's intoxicated by his very maleness, by the flat angularity of him, by the scrape of his beard, by the feel of his muscles. And by his big hands, which are, in fact, gentle, occupied as they are now, somewhere indeed very intimate.
The train stops. It startles them both, the cessation of motion, and they cling to each other more tightly, if that's possible. There's a definite feeling that they might get caught, unlikely as that is, and then a sudden feeling of naughtiness. Because here they are, naked, or nearly, in a train berth, while other passengers tramp down the corridor, sighing and muttering, and looking for their own homes for the next hours. "If only they knew," she whispers, and this strikes them both funny somehow, and so there they are, clinging to each other, stifling their laughter on each other's shoulders.
When the train starts again (mercifully!) he goes on with what he was doing, and then for her it's not enough, just his hand, no matter what, is not enough, so she begins tugging at the waistband of his underwear. "Are you sure?" he asks, "because we don't have to, if you're not sure."