I surveyed the German countryside from the second-class cabin of an InterCity Express that was tearing through the air from Hamburg to Cologne. The foliage near my window whizzed past me in a blur of chaotic leaves fighting canola fields triumphing in a glory of green-meets-yellow. The sky seen through the rush of those trees remained as still as my thoughts. No burning rage in the engine with the power of a thousand horses seemed to matter to those that watched us from above. No human progress could outrun the clouds as they cried upon the frail shoulders of the dying German countryside. The stars blinked in mockery and the planets watched with interest. I watched as a girl’s golden hair was set ablaze by the setting sun and returned to my book when my eyes had recovered. I could smell the rain. Not every pleasure is lost to the sterility of the German railroad. Have you ever watched as the rain pours in defiance of a mighty sunshine? There is a romance that comes with those tear-filled, dark clouds. Then, there is hope in the sunshine. And perhaps in those last sips of the wine I was drinking from that awkward plastic cup, there was the metaphor of the sunset. Had I been ten years younger and twenty wiser, I might’ve pressed my face against the cold windowpane, my eyes perplexed in curious wonder, my nose making marks on the innocent glass, my mouth bereft of sin, lost in the reverie of an unfated life. I might’ve inspired the poet in a despondent man. I might’ve coerced a song from a drama queen. I might’ve won their hearts with nothing but an unmasked face and a genuine smile. But I was ten years older and twenty colder. I was afraid of what they’d think of me if I were to show them even the slightest little bit of myself. Her hair was not on fire anymore. There were other people in the cabin too. We could see each other through the corners of our eyes, veiled by the hypocrisy of our sunglasses, too egotistic to give each other the pleasure of interest. It was that fear again. A fear of being discovered. A fear that the plastic mask of my face, built from 20-years of wearing a new lie each day, would melt away and leave me transparent. Sometimes, when I look at myself in the mirror, I feel a jolt of that same fear because I know that the hypocrisy adorning my face has no place within the honesty of my moist eyes. And when I look into my own eyes I know that I haven’t changed much- it is only my face that changes. Sometimes, unrecognizably. I once held a razor blade to my face and drew more blood than I did hair. It left a scar in the wake of a beard that nested pungent memories. Today, that beard is back and it has outgrown those dusty days. Time is infinite and infinity is just time without a tale. And every tale is veiled by the hypocrisy of those damned RayBan Wayfarers. I took my sunglasses off. I hate people who wear sunglasses indoors. I returned to my book. I always have a book with me for when I have to take my sunglasses off and I always feign interest in my books because a photographer needs to see before he reads.
I reached for my camera to take a picture of those last whiffs of blue sky before the sun was stubbed by the night sky like a cigarette. The night was upon us and as if by the hand of god and the will of the devil, I was forced to contend with what my second-class cabin had to offer me. That second-class cabin of the InterCity Express that was tearing through the air from Hamburg to Cologne, stopping occasionally to feed on people who lived in cities named after cheeses. The hot-chocolate man brought me a cup of cocoa in a paper cup labelled “Starbucks”. I must say that my heart sank a little, but I enjoyed the chocolate as I always do. The deep blue hue of the twilight sky had transferred neatly to the aging skin of the velvety seats. The cushions looked like they were sulking, and I along with it. I looked outside but I could see nothing. Oddly enough, it was too bright inside for me to see anything outside. I was drowsy with a longing for sleep. I looked at the old man with the young face and the young woman with the golden hair. I wondered what they might see if they looked my way. They’d see a boy lost in the mist of his mystic music. They’d see a book with unwrinkled pages and and they’d remark how closely it resembled my face. They’d see the pen in my pocket, a pen that I never carry with me. A pen that was only in my pocket by chance. A chance that I had not taken. They’d look into my eyes and see my blood turn cold in fear. They’d see my eyes dart away in shame and they’d see me pretending to look at the scenery that flew past us all in the darkness. But they were not looking my way, at least not when I was looking their way. I hoped that they would though as I fully submitted myself to the quiet of that moment. I prayed to my own soul that they should see me as I press my face against the cold window-pane of that InterCity Express that was tearing through the air from Hamburg to Cologne, at 330 Km/h as indicated on the screen by the exit row. I cupped my hands around my face and stumbled forward to breathe the dusky air chilled by the glass window. There was a forest in the darkness. The moon was hidden away behind those tear-filled clouds that followed us. There was a white glow that lit up the tree-tops. I longed for the shadows as I feared the darkness. There I was, a face in a window, a shadow without a face. The air precipitated with the lust of the moment as I peeled away from the poetry and returned to sulk in my reverie. Everyone on the train had resigned to a poetic slumber. I watched as their chests heaved in unison. I did not need a mask anymore, I was free.