There was a poet on the train that evening. At that hour, he was the only one in this car. Only one train ran this late into the night.
(On occasion, it would thunderstorm, and the raindrops pelted the train like a drum. Drrrum, drrrrrrrrum. Accented by the thunder, it was practically a symphony. The poet did like those nights.)
There was a time when the poet could sit alone, gaze out the window, contemplate the darkness. He could dream. He could nightmare.
(His eyes never stopped wandering. In the daytime, they ran to the horizon and back; they skipped among flowers, climbed trees, met new people, greeted old friends, and then returned to their owner on the train. At night, they plunged fearlessly into the abyss, not really looking for anything. And the poet saw everything.)
His alone days came to an end when the words began to overflow. They practically oozed from his pores. They ran from his lips every time he spoke. They graced his ears when he listened. They lived in secret places, places only he could see, only he could hear. They lived in his eyes, so deep in his eyes, and his heart.
A poet can only hold these words for so long before they begin to spill over.
There was a poet on the train that evening. At that hour, the train pulled to a halt at an unfamiliar stop. A ragged traveler climed on. His umbrella was drenched. His boots were covered in muck. The knees of his trousers were stained with earthy greens and browns. His overcoat was torn. His hat was not on his head, but in his hand, clutched so tightly the fabric bunched in his fist.
Every compartment was empty, all but the poet's. And the traveler was a solitary creature. Loneliness beckoned. Silence called sweetly. But that night, the traveler did not want to be alone.
He slid the compartment door open gingerly and sat down across from the daydreaming poet.
It was quiet at first. The poet looked up from his daydreaming and locked eyes with the traveler. The traveler could only stare.
What an interesting man, the traveler thought. Look at his face. It tells stories. His eyes are windows to different worlds. I've never traveled to worlds like that... how beautiful!
"Uh. Sorry," said the traveler suddenly. "I don't mean to stare."
A small smile curled on the poet's lips. His taletelling lips.
"Uh. Ahem. Sorry." The traveler coughed casually into his handkerchief.
The poet simply nodded once. The smile was still there.
"I'm a traveler," the traveler went on. His ears turned red with embarrassment. It had been ages since he had a proper conversation. "I want to see the world."
"Ah, travel." The poet closed his eyes. "What a lovely idea." His voice was like silk, or like a placid lake on a foggy afternoon. His words were like music.
"Well, sir, you are on a train at an ungodly hour. Surely you're going somewhere?"
"Always going somewhere, yes. But the journey is always in my head." The poet tapped his temples gently. "Up here. That is where the travel happens, I've found."
"Don't you want to see the world?"
"Oh, yes. But don't we all? Everyone is looking for something. A man travels with the hope that his 'something' is waiting for him, somewhere. Everyone is looking." The poet opened his eyes again.
The traveler blinked. With a lurch, the train stopped. Heavy air circled around him while the doors of the train opened, bringing in a refreshing breeze. When the train began moving again, clacking rhythmically against the tracks, the traveler stared into the poets eyes.
Something told him everything he had been looking for was somewhere in there, somewhere beyond the glistening, glittering, magical eyes. Somewhere the words hid. Somewhere beauty was sleeping.
"What are you looking for?" the traveler asked. Maybe their destination was the same.
"Those people belonging to my profession search endlessly, you see, but we rarely find it. Therefore, I do not think about what I am looking for. I think about finding it."
"What is your profession?"
The poet smiled with his lips parted slightly, just revealing the whiteness of his smile. "I help other people find what they are looking for."
"I can see it. You hold them. The answers. You hold answers you weren't looking for. Answers for other people. Answers to the questions you haven't asked yet. There they are, right there, in you. What are you?"
The poet closed his eyes. He leaned back against the wall of the compartment and began to doze off. The smile still danced on his lips. It was peaceful. It was taunting.
"I want my answer. You have it."
"I have doors and windows, kind sir. If you look into them, you will find something you didn't know you needed. Goodnight, sir."
The traveler said nothing. He put his head against the wall and shut his eyes, and fell asleep thinking about questions he didn't know he asked and answers he didn't know he was looking for.
In the morning, the traveler woke, and the poet was gone. On the crimson seat, there was a piece of white parchment folded in half. The traveler scrambled toward it and opened it. There were words on it, written in black ink, nearly illegible until the traveler focused on them. They were arranged in lines and verses, organized chaotically, sweetly, and they flowed. The traveler read it and began to weep.
It was a poem.
"Oh, so odd how words can touch a soul!" the traveler cried.
Poets, the traveler learned, held worlds inside of them that he could never visit. Burdening worlds. Liberating worlds. Worlds of raw emotion, of soul, heaven and hell, right and wrong. Worlds of questions and answers.
Thank you for letting me in, the traveler thought.
The traveler never stopped journeying for the remainder of his days. However, wherever the traveler went, he never again found a world quite like the one he had seen in the poet.