The ground is wet. There is nowhere to sit. An emaciated dog crosses the tracks. I lean my bags on top of one another and rest my hand on them, hoping they won’t topple. Everyone is quiet. A few draw silently on cigarettes, the smoke drifting into the humid air.
I peel a banana and throw the skin into a rusty, crumpled bin. I remove a rubber band from an opened packet of milk biscuits and crackle it open as unobtrusively as I can. I am not from here and their eyes are on me. An old man smiles.
The dog is close now. He limps towards me, his eyes oozy and infected. His bones protrude from his rib cage. The old man yells at the dog in Bulgarian. Shoos him away. But I wave my arms, hold up my hands, to tell him it’s okay.
I break a biscuit into pieces and scatter them close to the dog. He eats them methodically, then looks back to me. We repeat this a few times and I just wish I could scoop him up and take him home. Clean him up and see to his eyes.
The tracks go on forever in both directions. We are heading for Velingrad.
My partner comes back smiling, holding two machine-made cappuccinos in small paper cups. We take them onto the train, where a lady offers to prop one of our bags against her legs to help us; we don’t have enough room in front of our seats. She holds our bag for the entire journey.
The old man settles nearby, then gets up to give us two shiny green plums. He says a few words in Bulgarian, and it feels like he is wishing us well.
When we get to our stop, another woman, sitting nearby, looks out the window and howls like a dying animal; there are gypsies waiting to get onto the train.
Lisa Reily is a former literacy consultant, dance director and teacher from Australia. Her poetry and short stories have been published in several journals, such as Panoplyzine, Magma, DNA and Foxglove Journal. Lisa is currently a full-time budget traveler and her writing is often inspired by her journey. You can find out more about Lisa at https://lisareily.wordpress.com.