Rushing into the train my sister leads the way climbing the stairs to the dining car. Six of us quickly spread out, laying purses and backpacks on the seats to save places for friends who will be joining us as we travel south to Del Mar. Behaving like teenagers, we glance at one another, sending silent signals and avoiding eye contact with the conductor as she tries to determine who is sitting with whom. We trade places, regroup to confuse her and her partner, and hope they don’t notice we are saving seats. But after a couple of stops it’s clear that our efforts are in vain. With this being the biggest race day of the season, this train will be at full capacity and saving seats is out of the question, space is limited, you will share with other passengers not in your party, the conductor tell us. We politely, although somewhat reluctantly, give our saved seats to those who have just boarded and hope the rest of our party understands we did the best we could.
Fortunately, I maintain my window seat, ocean side of the train, on an absolutely gorgeous day. The sun shines on the blue Pacific and beach goers walk along the shore. After seven annual trips to the horse races, I never tire of this view, more beautiful each year. Chatting and sipping champagne, I allow my thoughts to drift to this time last year. High hopes for lasting love, I believed that an invitation to a day at the races and a romantic train ride along the California coast would propel a relationship into the future. I was wrong. Days before the trip I got the courage to ask some questions. I wanted to know where I stood, where we stood. Where was this train headed? He made it clear. He and I would never be a “we.”
I struggled to get through that day a year ago, doing my best to smile and laugh, but losing my composure the second someone asked how I was feeling. I remember so clearly wanting to take back the questions I had asked just a few days earlier . . . we could be enjoying this trip together. Ridiculous as it sounds, I wanted to trade my heart ache for false hope. That was a pitiful wish. I had asked the right questions, I had made the right decision and life went on exactly as it should, allowing me to learn and grow. Today I am better, stronger, and wiser.
Feeling the champagne and taking in the beauty of the ocean, I am lost in my thoughts. My heart senses the tiniest ache, but my eyes do not well up with tears. Instead, I smile, enjoy the view, and the memory of love. Gratitude is what I feel.
A sudden burst of laughter takes me out of my head and back to the moment, a moment that deserves my attention, making memories and enjoying the company of old friends. I join the laughter though I’m not sure why we are laughing. It doesn’t matter . . . because I’m enjoying the ride.