It flashed past her eyes. Everytime she blinked and opened her eyes, there was something new to watch. It disoriented her but she enjoyed it immensely. Beside her, her sister slept with a smile on her face, lost in the world of dreams. Her father sat at the far end seemingly unaware of his surroundings, unlike her. Her eyes turned again to stare at the ever-changing view. Trees, ponds, dirt all mixing, seeming as one, it moved so fast.
She shot forward propelled by the jolting of the train. Behind her she heard a small thud followed by a groan indicating that the person had hurt themselves. Her hands had unconsciously tightened around the seat, digging into it. She loosened them and grimaced as pain shot through them.
This was her first time travelling by train – and would not be her last. Like most people living in Bangladesh, her father had migrated to Dhaka. It had happened so suddenly that three years from that time, she was still shocked. Every day it had seemed she had to remind herself that she was not back in her hometown but in a new city, a stranger. Hardest had been leaving her extended family. As a child she had spent every waking moment with them and it had caught her by surprise how hurt she had been leaving them. But that was how a child's mind worked when losing the object of their attachment.
Suddenly she felt the excitement course through her body at the thought of seeing them again. It would be so wonderful, talking and playing with them. She could hardly contain herself.
The train jolted again but this time she was prepared, holding onto the seat with all her might. Her sister stirred but refused to wake up, the dreams better than the dingy train.
She turned to look back out the window again but gave a soft yelp as she saw a cockroach emerge from the dark and travel to the window. It perched itself there and stood as if it too were enjoying the view. Disgusted and shaking, she picked up a newspaper and trapped it, throwing it into the already overflowing waste basket. Her mood ruined, she scrutinized the contents of the train.
It wasn't that bad, she reasoned with herself. Perhaps a bit mismanaged. What would have her mother have said seeing this? A pang of guilt caught her by surprise. She missed her mother. Her mother had not come, giving sickness as an excuse.
The train seemed to slow down before stopping completely. She expected it to be another one of those wretched stations where the train stopped for five minutes at a time.
“Quickly!” Her father said pulling down the cases.
Recovering from the shock of having arrived so soon she roused her sister and got up, ready to help her father. But her father did not seem to require it, he was already moving out. She grasped her sister's arm and pulled her, following her father. Her sister stumbled, her tiny dimpled hands rubbing her sleepy eyes.
The train issued its signal for leaving. She felt disdain; how could it have stayed so long in other stations but for so little time in the one they were descending at? Pushing the thought out of her head, she made haste, dropping her sister first before getting down herself.
“That was close.” Her father said. “Oh look they're here.”
She turned to see them. A family emerged, their faces filled with delight waving at them. Confusion. Had her aunt been this old? Her cousin was unrecognizable. They were smiling but behind it she saw hesitance. She felt lonely, who were they? Were they the people she had regretted losing? Then why did they feel like strangers?
And it came to her in a second: she was a long way from home.
Faizaa Fariya Hridi is a class XI student at Playpen School.