This is really intense. I can’t hear you. I can’t hear myself. Calm down. I saw you in here before. That wasn’t me. Move over. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Sorry. Not enough room to swing a cat. You just elbowed me in the ribs. Sorry. The waiter jostles the second chair at my table every time he needs access to the table to my left. The young woman at that table is the one seemingly not permitted chairs in her own home. Perhaps that’s why she’s here, to indulge in some quality sitting.
The whole family is in Ireland for the semester. The father is on faculty at Columbia but occasionally takes a semester off to conduct historical literary tours in Ireland. It is when I move into their place that I learn about the concept of railroad apartments. These are apartments that echo the structure of early 20th century passenger trains with one long hallway running the length of the car with compartments along one side. This family’s apartment is dominated by a cramped, windowless hallway running from the bathroom at one end to the living-room at the other with kitchen and bedrooms aligned along the left. I sit on the overstuffed sofa and watch snow pass through the streetlights on Columbus, like locomotive headlights cutting through the starry night.