Now I sat in a green upholstered chair with blue plastic back and fold-up tray that fit cunningly and irritatingly between the two-person banquettes of the non-smoking car I shared with others. I had purchased a bottle of spring water and a second copy of the same newspaper, thinking to inform myself of events that lay ahead and the conversations that would pour like banners or scrolls from the mouths of the formal scholars beginning their program later in the day. Two carabinieri walked swiftly up the aisle, from behind our row, with guns polished and strapped to their flanks. The visors of their caps were as if just polished, their red-trimmed epaulets aglow with golden eagles and tiny alphabets. I pretended to read my English-language newspaper to deflect their gaze. I went over the 10 points of my presentation, mentally punctuating each with a gold P and its companion number. In that way, I could hold each numerical distinction as if on a file card to be arranged before me in the air as I looked out at the audience trained upon me waiting to attribute meaning to my sentences inching forth in my second, imperfectly striving language.
The train passed through the fresh greens of late March fields, moving steadily under the Umbrian sun about to break open the branches of fruit trees. Suddenly caught in midday light, its wheels began to roll more slowly, and then it came to a full stop, as if unable to continue its mechanical repetitions. A white butterfly cut across the window's otherwise ordinary sky braced with electric poles and wires. If I were to write you I would say how I love taking these little journeys into mountainous terrain, remaining stable and endless as "we," who make-up today's passenger list, speed by as if we are equally intact. Even remembering briefly the small piece of paper containing information I so carefully sought and assembled, I can feel its whiteness recede, as if the knowledge of towns and their properties, names and the distances that continue to separate them, are behind us but not here.
In Rome, sound is gathering between noon and one p.m. and you are thinking of a little penne with pomodoro at the bar, having stayed out all morning to enjoy the weather and random conversations.