Beneath the English Channel aboard Eurostar 9031 to Waterloo Station, London
My ears feel changes in air pressure as the train glides beneath the ocean at 186 miles an hour. Passengers speak quietly, as if in church. You can hear the clink of the cups and saucers now that tea and coffee follow a lunch of pork or cod, with ruby peach mousse cake for dessert. A young French businessman across the aisle quickly covers the speaker on his Dell laptop when the Windows startup chimes threaten to make too much noise for the rest of us. It is quiet enough to sleep, as does the mysterious woman with the white guitar case. Is she famous? At this speed, I hear no sound of rails and wheels, only the train-made wind, and a low musical note, like a ringing in the ears. The floor’s vibrations massage my feet.
I have loved trains ever since I was five years old and living in Texas when my mother took my sister and me on the Santa Fe Chief. I remember feeling as if I had entered a magic kingdom of motion and sound. In the domed observation car, a stranger asked where I got such big, brown eyes and I replied, “in a Texas drug store.” Riding the Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV) yesterday from Cannes to Paris, and now aboard the Eurostar, a boyish place in me is simply ecstatic, humming along with the train itself, not wanting the trip to ever end. I want everyone in the car to be as happy as I am to be here on what may be the coolest train in the world. I want them to know they are part of something really big. I want them to look up from their laptops and cellphones and say, “Omigod, I can’t believe we’re having this much fun!” The hot towels just arrived. We’re out of the tunnel, in England on a damp, gray day. This evening Darlene and I will see “Stuff Happens,” a new play at the National Theatre in London, and then on to Oxford by express bus, arriving just before midnight.