– Come on! Hurry!
– Excuse me, may I please go first?
– Can you wait for me? I need to use the bathroom
– What the Hell lady!? Watch where you’re going!
– A bagel please!
– Where is track no. 9? Can anyone tell me where it is?
– What time it is?
– Crap! Where’s my phone? I can’t find my phone! Help! Someone help me!!!
The voices of hundreds upon hundreds of people were all mixed together in an unintelligible, chaotic buzz. They’re all in a hurry, they’re all focused on their own individual tasks and most seem to have lost both respect and awareness towards the existence of others around them. They’re all in a hurry; buying tickets, booking trips, ordering food, eating, reading, getting their daily dose of bad coffee…
A loud whistle sound makes interrupts all other noises for a second. The big, old clock strikes, “ALL ABOARD” yell the conductor. The doors close and the first train of the day leaves the country’s most crowded train station.
Another day has begun!
A mix of feelings could be felt, floating into the air.
The stress of those commuting to get or come to work in the neighboring towns together with the excitement, the joy of all those going on vacation and the sorrow of those saying goodbye to their loved ones, all put together, to form a mysteriously fascinating cocktail of feelings – a mix unlike anything that I have ever before experienced. A mix that would overwhelm anyone and move even the heartless…
In between all the chaos, between all the people, there was a little boy. He couldn’t have been more than nine or ten, although he was working as an adult – sticking up the shelves of the most crowded newspaper stand of the station; lifting the heavy bundles of freshly printed morning papers with such enthusiasm and energy as if there couldn’t possibly be anything better to do in the entire world. Clearly from a poor family, accustomed with the hardships of life from a tender age and already in charge of his own destiny at an age when most people have no care, but still refusing any money from any of the customers trying to tip him telling them all with a big honest smile that “If I haven’t worked for it then I don’t deserve it!”. No one could help it, everyone was moved by his clear hardship, but above all by his ethics…
Every free moment he had he would spend it either reading, writing or looking around. Fascinated by all the travelers and with a clear passion for the trains, his dreamy eyes were watching the trains pull in and out of the station… perhaps dreaming of the wonderful trips he would be taking if he had the means to do so… perhaps promising himself that one day he’ll travel, promising himself that one day he’ll get to see the world he has read so much, with his own eyes
He would greet every customer with a warm and welcoming smile and always made sure to ask them, all, where they’re going or where they’re coming from. Even if most times he’d be ignored or laughed at he kept on doing it – his curiosity was endless, he was sociable and his fascination with traveling kept on pushing him forward, motivating him to always find more about the world, about traveling, about everything.
I was next in line to get the paper and there was no one behind me. He greeted me with the same warm smile as he did anyone else. He asked me what I’d want to read today. He handed me the paper, took the money, gave the change and asked me the same question he’d always ask “Where are you heading to or coming from sir?”. I answered him and turned around, about to leave, but couldn’t do it. There was just something about him, something that made me curious, something that wouldn’t let me leave; so I turned around, again, and like I had no control over my words, I said “I have rarely seen someone so motivated, so determined and so enthusiastic about their work. What drives you on? What fascinates you about traveling? I have so many questions…”.
For a moment I thought he was scared of me or didn’t want to answer. He was doubting it, but then he replied “I have no one in this world. All the memories that I have are from the streets. I wandered around for years just trying to survive; begging, sleeping under the stars, eating whatever I’d find while being at the mercy of everyone and everything. Before I found the train station, I’ve never wished for anything else than to survive one more day, for someone to give me one more coin, to afford one more piece of stale bread… When I found the station, I haven’t eaten for days, I was hungry, I was alone and I was cold. With what I reckon to have been my last powers, I’ve decided to follow the tracks and see where they lead me. At that moment I had nothing to lose, I had nothing else to go and I didn’t know anyone. I don’t know why I did it. I could have walked in the wrong direction. I could’ve been walking for days and could’ve died on the way, but I didn’t want to give up. I didn’t want to admit that my end is going to be on the side of a railway, in the middle of nowhere and so I kept on walking. It got dark outside, it got even colder. It was so cold I couldn’t feel my feet anymore, but then I saw it. I saw the station. I saw the people, all in a rush, the big clock, the restaurants, the trains…
When I got into the station, for a moment, just a moment, all my problems, the hunger, the tiredness, it all seemed to have disappeared and I was instantly fascinated by the chaos, by the movement, the smells, the noises, the travelers’ lifestyle. I passed out in a corner. I had no more power to carry on and I was famished. Someone woke me up by shaking me. It was dark outside, there were no passengers, but there was a lot of movement in the station. An old lady was the one shaking me. She told me that she thought I was dead, that she prayed to God for me not to be dead. She bought me a tea, she gave me some food. She is one of the owners of this newsstand. She told me that she doesn’t have much, but they have been looking for someone to help around with the newspaper stand since she is now old. Since then, I have been living in the station, in this newsstand. The lady taught me how to read and write and pays me… I have everything that I have ever dreamed of and so much more….”
By now the kid had tears in his eyes and stopped talking, but somehow he found the strength to wipe down his tears and finish his story: “… And I owe it all to this place. I am saving all the money I can. I am working hard because I don’t want to ever be back on the streets. I don’t want to ever be back at the mercy of the universe. This is why I enjoy my work so much even if it is exhausting. Two years ago I had nothing, now I have everything I’ve ever wished for and one day I’ll have more; oh, so much more. As about being fascinated about travel, you need to know that one day I will be sitting next to you in the train and I’ll be able to share my own travel stories from across the world…”.
I had no more words. I barely succeeded to say goodbye and wish the kid the best of luck in life
“Safe travels and never stop dreaming!’’ he said…