Train Stories #8: The Boy in Blue
“I am a rock. I am an island.” -Simon & Garfunkel
Everything about him was blue — from the frame of his glasses to the sad, doe-eyed look in his eyes.
When riding a local train recently from Naoetsu to Namerikawa — about a two-hour journey —a boy dressed in nearly all blue sat in the seat diagonally from me. I was riding the train with my sister, who was visiting me in Japan for the first time. For the first part of our journey, we were the only two passengers in the car and after talking for a bit, my sister rested her eyes. As she slept, I stared out the window, beginning to daydream about the future, until the boy in blue got on the train at Itoigawa, a town of about 48,000 people in southern Niigata prefecture.
I had never seen someone wearing so many shades of blue at once before.
He wore blue jeans, blue socks and a striped blue and white collared shirt. He carried a blue North Face book bag and wore a purple watch. Dangling from his book bag was a small teddy bear charm. A few minutes after boarding the train, he stretched his legs up on the seat in front of him and took out some paper. Squinting and rubbing his forehead, he stared at the graphs on the paper with a diligent intensity.
After a few minutes of studying, his eyes slowly shifted to the window. It was dark outside, and we sometimes went through tunnels, which muffled the sound in the train and caused some of the doors to violently shake back and forth. But after passing through a tunnel, we could occasionally see the faint city lights glowing from homes and shops outside.
He looked about 18-19 and was probably a first-year university student. He reminded me of many high-school aged students I see in my Japanese town. They are constantly studying on trains, even on the weekends. They joke and laugh when with their friends, texting on their cell phones and teasing one another about sports and relationships. But when alone, their disposition changes to that of a lone wolf. They zone off and listen to music or read a textbook or worksheet in hand.
I wondered what the boy in blue was thinking. Like so many other Japanese young men, his fortress of solitude seemed impenetrable. He left the train sometime before we got to Toyama. He moved so quietly that I can’t even tell you what stop he got off at.