It suddenly occurred to me, as I carried the last of the empty cardboard boxes out to the recycling bin that the end of our moving in meant the beginning of our travel planning. Planning. The word hung in the air like humidity. Although I was approaching my third train trip to Europe, this was the first where I would be bound by the realities of companionship. In other words, I would need an answer to that fundamental question of companion travel: “So, what are we doing today?”
My previous two trips spanned more than eight weeks, and for those eight weeks the only question that popped up was, “When does the train to __ leave?” (I framed that question in quotation marks, because I did ask it, as with any others that came up while traveling solo, out loud to myself.) While Carol has bought into traveling by train through France, she's expecting to do more than just travel by train through France.
“So, what would you like to see in France?” I asked Carol one morning.
“Nothing touristy. Maybe just wander around and see what we find.”
This wasn't possible. That's exactly what I did for all those weeks I'd spent riding trains. The only difference, of course, is that I didn't find much and didn't care that I hadn't. This time, though, I knew we'd have to find things to be interested in besides train stations, cafes and bakeries with long lines in front.
She continued. “I need to get a map and have it in my hand to see where I'm going first.”
I looked at her in wonder. Could it be possible? Were we about to embark on a two or three week jaunt through Europe with Carol’s head buried in a road map and mine buried in a train timetable? This was not merely building up as a Grand Experiment so much as a possible trip of a lifetime. I imagined conversations going like this:
CAROL: (pointing on her map) Let's go here. It looks interesting.
REID: (fingering his timetable) Looks great. We can take the 10:45 out of Avignon.
I'm thinking it's possible that in Carol I've actually met myself as a woman, and have swept myself off my feet. But then I realize…
Like the other day, she dropped me and her grandson off at the golf course, and then went off to work. Shortly after, I realized I had left the water in the car and had forgotten to take a spare key to get back in the house after golf. Before I could PM her, she had written: “I hope you two got something to drink, and I left a key under the mat at the back door.”
I think she realizes she's got her work cut out for her, although I've never walked off a train yet, while leaving Claude behind in the luggage compartment. I hope she knows that already.
I do understand it's not that I've fallen in love with me, so much as Carol has got another grandson to care for. But at least I know how to put the seat down, and I don't miss the toilet. Most times, anyway.