Traingazing: How I Learned to Live In the Moment
December 3, 2021 / Zuena Karim
The train traversed onwards, but my mind had its own itinerary .
My maternal home stood out as the red-brick house tucked in the corner of the terraced buildings. The crimson hue shined in the sun as my sister and I approached the house from the airport. Our giddiness filled the air as we visited my mother, who had moved back to her home in England to work. From the view of her bedroom window, I could see the train station on the next block, connecting the small town to an abundance of destinations. It was the place where all my adventures through my motherland began.
My mother, sister, and I usually traversed the country together, but only my sister and I walked to the train station this time. An unexpected illness kept my mother in and out of the hospital. Numbness perfused from my mind to my hands. Despite my unwillingness to leave her side, my mom insisted that I take my sister around England. Her positivity was boundless, even in dire situations. Succumbing to her request, my sister and I prepared for a trip in the coming week.
The day of our trip was sweltering for typical British weather. With our train tickets ready in hand, my little sister and I embarked on our escapade to the city. A protective instinct overcame me, and I grasped tightly onto her palm as we navigated to our train. I did not want to lose her among the swarm of people buzzing in the railway station. Ironically, it felt like I squeezed her hand for my own sake to combat the uneasiness of leaving my mother behind. The heat of the station made waiting feel like an eternity until an overhead voice announced, “The train now approaching, Platform 4, is the service to London Euston.”
Our seats were hidden in the back of the train. My little sister plugged in her headphones, tuning out our surroundings using trendy pop, and I peered my head towards the window as we promptly departed from the station. Despite being an avid traveler, I couldn’t shake a feeling of guilt for vacationing while my mother was battling her sickness. I spent every second worrying about her condition. My regret grew with each increasing mile away from her, but I knew my mother disliked my constant worrying. It became a challenge to channel her lively energy to make this trip enjoyable for my little sister.
The serene greenery and hills in the countryside of England began to blur with the train’s increasing acceleration. Swiftly passing by the vast, sunlit grasses of fields left me to dwell in my repressed thoughts. Just as the charming scenes flew past in the blink of an eye, I seldom paused to enjoy the present moment without worrying. The cerulean sky and bountiful greens vanquished as the train entered occasional tunnels, and similarly, my thoughts became shrouded with cloudy darkness. That day, my mind had its own melancholic itinerary. Negativity swelled in my head as I fixated on regretful thoughts of things I could have done. I began to feel like a bad daughter, finding that all my overthinking over every decision in my daily life stole time away from calling my mother more throughout the day. Maybe then I would have realized she was concealing the state of her health behind her constant smile. A futile daughter is what I thought of myself at that moment.
However, I knew my mother would be upset if I spent the entirety of the trip wallowing in sorrow. Like my mother refuses to deal with cheerless energy, our English train could not deal with the unprecedented heatwave outside. The machine slowed to a stop in the middle of its tracks due to the unnaturally warm weather.
I nudged my sister, who had dozed off amidst the ambient warmth and music, and proposed we play the classic game of “I Spy.” I went first, cunningly proclaiming, “I spy with my little eye something... red.” Though it was a striking color, several red items were scattered throughout the train — a piece of red luggage stored overhead, a dapper lady with a red blouse ahead of us, and a staunch man to the right munching on a red apple while reading the daily newspaper. After correctly spotting the red apple, my sister proceeded to challenge me with finding something white. It could have been several things — the clouds, my headphones, a lone coffee cup— but it turned out to be her sneakers hidden underneath the table. Losing that round roused my competitive spirit, and we ended up playing the game over the next hour on a quest to find the most obscure objects. Before we knew it, we were back on our way to our destination. Yet, it felt as though playing I Spy took us on an unexpected journey.
Though I had a habit of focusing on my regrets, my mind finally met with my body in the present when I played this game of search with my sister. I opened my eyes to my surroundings. The rounds of I Spy led me to seek out the existing, unnoticed moments that surrounded me, transforming a mundane journey into one loaded with vivid memories. It was the crisp red apple and my sister’s worn-out sneakers that became tokens to admire the transcendent beauty of the day — the easily dismissed objects led me to recognize the gratitude that was within my grasp. Had we not played, inconsequential thoughts would have raced through my head, and misery would be the only thing I remembered about the train ride.
Overthinking would have robbed these precious moments. I knew my mother wanted my sister and me to enjoy our trip, but I also realized that she wanted me to confront my habit of constant distress over the past. For once, I let go of the itinerary in my head and fulfilled my mother’s wish. ■
by: Zuena Karim
graphics by: Amanda Garza
graphics by: Amanda Garza