WHEN I first saw her in the station at St. Margrethen she was boarding the railroad car in which I sat, shoving an enormous brown leather suitcase up the high step with her knee. Earth colors she was wearing: pants of brown corduroy, knitted vest patterned in orange and brown, Kelly green shirt with uprolled sleeves. Dark eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, young, mysterious. After heaving her burden onto the overhead rack, she collapsed into a seat across the aisle from me, perspiring sedately. Then the silver, air-conditioned train quietly sealed itself to continue its five-hour run westward across Switzerland.
Alpine streams boiled with icy meltwater, and the fields were ablaze with poppies, for the month was May. I attempted first to doze, then to strike up a conversation with the person next to me. No success there. I tried to doze a second time and couldn't, and then I noticed her again. She had produced a posy of wilted wildflowers from somewhere, and was now holding it on her lap, her thoughts apparently upon whoever had given it to her. She had a strong but tranquil face. She was looking at the flowers and lightly smiling. I moved across the aisle and sat down facing her.
``Wie heissen die Blumen?'' I asked. I knew that the salad bowl of German words at my disposal would not get me far. Perhaps speaking to her at all was a mistake. At any rate her only answer to my question about the flowers was a smile. Ah, I thought, not German. Italian, of course. She's dark.