I am 15, and taking a train by myself for the first time. I am off to see my brother at his college in Munich. I am filled with nervous excitement. The conductors smile in a kind fashion as they knowingly ask me in English for my ticket. With my jean jacket and mullet, I'm painfully American. As the train clicks down the track, I cast furtive smiles at pretty strangers, a young adolescent on an adventure. Dizzied by my own boldness, I quickly avert my eyes to the window, not even waiting to see if they return my hesitant smiles. The rhythm of the train clashes wonderfully to the beat of the music leaving the headphones of my walkman.
Ten years later I am looking out of another train window. I point out the scenery that passes to the child in my lap. He and I make faces at each other, and he laughs and calls me "Uh-He". He is a beautiful child. As we play I am aware of the smiles of the strangers as they watch us. I smile back. The smile feels good, as the does the hug from my nephew, and I am glad that I am alive.
Four years later, as I prepare for another train trip, I stare at the stranger in the mirror. My face drips and so does his, but he is not someone that is recognizable to the other two travelers. My hair is shorn close, and although the metal beads that hold my dog tags are missing, I can still see them upon my skin. Never did I imagine I would be here when I was younger. I towel off my face and carefully wipe down the sink, polishing the bright work quickly. I turn out the light and leave to catch another train, this one an ocean away from the other two.