5:30 a.m. Return from Baltimore on Amtrak’s first run of the day. The Quiet car is sparsely populated. Light rain falls. The train rumbles north to NYC . . . Boston last stop.
At Penn Station, commuters fill the empty seats. A Suit takes the open seat next to me. He opens his laptop, twists in his earbuds and settles in. I glance over. Millennial. Blue navy suit. Sharp red tie. Country of origin? Non-U.S.
Five minutes pass.
He grabs his laptop and walks to the back of the train and disappears into the next car. I’m happy for the elbow room. I return to my emails.
P.A.: “45 minutes to the Stamford Station.” On Time.
I scan the morning papers.
40 minutes to the Stamford Station.
I hadn’t noticed his black duffel bag on the floor – black straps, logo-free and hulking motionless in the shadows. A black umbrella rests on top. The aisle seat remains empty.
30 minutes to the Stamford Station.
I return to my reading, but my eyes are drawn to the unmarked bag, the umbrella and the empty aisle seat. My ears are alive. Ticking? Flashing digital countdown timer?
20 minutes to the Stamford Station.
The Conductor walks down the aisle.
Tell him. Go ahead. “If you see something, say something.”
10 minutes to the Stamford Station.
I look down, from way up.
The NY Times Front Page Headline on Thursday February 25, 2016: Explosion on Amtrak 2150.
On a quiet gray morning.
Unsuspecting passengers catapulted from the Quiet Car.
Spread like confetti…
5 minutes to the Stamford Station.
I get up.
I tip toe over The Bag.
I open the overhead bin, grab my coat and the overnight bag.
I look up the train car for the Conductor.
I look back down the train car while I put on my coat.
And here He comes.
My Seat Mate.
Walking down aisle, smiling, holding his cup of coffee.
I let him pass by so he can get into his seat:
“Good morning. Thank you.”