Mizu boarded the Indian Pacific at Sydney and navigated her suitcase through the narrow corridors of the train. She found her seat besides a square window inside a compact twin cabin. There, two vacant bunkers lay waiting to be occupied by two strangers.
After placing her suitcase beneath the bunker and sitting by the window, Mizu became aware of a certain aroma that filled the train. The wooden interiors of the Indian Pacific were perfumed by the scents of the many gentlemen that got in at Sydney. They smelt like freshly brewed cinnamon tea and intoxicated the entire air of the cabin.
Mizu didn’t care much about the scent or her window seat for she would be invested in reading The Pillow Book that she had picked up in Tokyo. She was determined to switch seats with her cabin roommate for the upper bunk seat, unless the expected stranger didn’t want the distractions of the lower bunk too.
With a whirring sound, as though a million tin cans were being crushed under its wheels, the train soon left the platform at Sydney and headed towards a certain coastline city which had haunting mysteries.
Mizu began reading her book from where she had left off, and at intervals, she looked up to see suburban Australia with its endless rich lime green pastures that seemed to spread out all over the country. The trees besides Australia’s white and blue houses swayed in the sea breeze that had followed the train all the way from Sydney.
Soon when the sun began to set, Mizu heard a knock on her cabin door and a young man asked her if he could come in.
She nodded and her cabin roommate kept his brown leather bag under the bunker, besides Mizu’s own bag, and sat next to her. What followed was a long silence which made Mizu’s heart thump to the whirring of the train.
Mizu kept her book away and the thought of spending three days alone in a cabin with a young man made her giddy. After what felt like hours of silence, the young man got up and left the cabin.
Mizu knew that only a few minutes had gone by because the sun was yet way up over the horizon, as though it were mocking her, being as it was, the great keeper of time. She walked out of the cabin and looked for the in-house restaurant where she could have a beverage. The Adelaide Queen’s restaurant was huge with two rows of ten tables and was filled with the merriment of jovial travelers. She recalled Tokyo’s trains which were so crowded that she rarely got a seat on her way back home.
Mizu took a seat by a window right opposite the young man from her cabin, so that they faced each other, but were on two different tables. She ordered a glass of white wine – the Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, the original Australian nectar, and looked anywhere but straight at the young man.
From a nearby cabin, Mizu heard AC DC’s “It’s a Long Way to The Top” blaring on someone’s speakers and although she had never heard the song before, it made her heart pound, suddenly reminding her of an old friend she had left behind – Lui.
As Mizu and the young man sipped on their beverages, they looked out of their windows and watched the sun dye the white Australian sky with bright bursts of orange. They both took turns to steal glances at each other, but made no effort to smile.
Outside in a golden hue, Mizu saw treeless ochre lands and ghost towns, luscious green vineyards and rows of flowering trees. She had seen the vastness of creation through her train window only in a few hours and she felt like she was watching the greatest motion picture of all time. Australia was vivid and alive, as if it was just born into a world that was already rotting at the edges.
After her meal, Mizu retired to her cabin and saw that the young man was already sitting on the lower bunk. He was reading her copy of The Pillow Book and when he saw Mizu he read out solemnly, “With the passing years, my years grow old upon me/ yet when I see this lovely flower of spring, I forget age and time.”
The train had begun climbing up the Blue Mountains of Australia and Mizu felt a deep rumbling beneath the wheels. The next morning the Indian Pacific would halt in a city only for a day, and Mizu hoped that the young man would get off there.