Magdalena got on the train and placed the beautiful wooden locked box in the seat next to her. She’s been preparing for this journey for a long time. This ride will be symbolic for her and will give her time to reflect as there are many stops along the way. The letter only stated that she and the box needed to be on the noon train leaving Barcelona on April 8, 2013 and to arrive in Rome by April 15, 3:00 p.m. She gazed out the window with excitement. She had a smile that permeated so much so that when people walked by, they couldn’t help but to say hello or smile.
This portion of the train ride is busy. Two passengers sit across from her. She offers a smile and pulls the box closer to her with her jacket nestled next to it. She notices them are eyeing her box, but they say nothing. Just then one of the conductors who had noticed her earlier walked up to collect their tickets and to inquire about the detailed woodwork on the box. This piqued the interest of the other passengers as well. Magdalena with pride lifted up the box and told them it didn’t belong to her. She had received it a few years ago via FedEx with a simple note that stated, please hold onto me until the appointed time. The conductor looked puzzled as did the passengers, but Magdalena seemed assured as she nestled the box on the other side of her next to the window. The female passenger seated across from her finally spoke.
Female Passenger: Aren’t you afraid it contained something dangerous or an explosive?
Magdalena smiled and nodded her head yes -
Magdalena: Of course, I was actually put off that an anonymous person would send me such a beautiful gift that I can’t open with a one liner letter. I took the wrapper and the box to the police. They kept it for a month without opening it and they were able to determine that box and its contents were safe.
Conductor: You’ve never opened the box?
Conductor: I must say that is an interesting story Ma’am, but the craftsmanship on the box is exquisite. Whatever is in the box, I hope it’s just as exquisite.
Female passenger: Look at the illumination about her. Even if it’s not, you can’t put that in a box – who would want to.
Magdalena: (smiling) – Thank you.
It wasn’t until she reached Monaco that she realized it was gone. The box was gone. Everyone told her she should have just taken a flight from Barcelona to Rome, but she wanted to take the scenic route to visit the ‘country side’ sort-to-speak. She couldn’t believe it as she began pulling out her coat, carry-on and purse. Looking under and behind the seat – it was gone.
The conductor noticed her searching and asked if there was something wrong.
Magdalena: YES! My box is missing.
Conductor: Mademoiselle, what box?
Magdalena looking at him, realized he wasn’t the same conductor and this man had no idea what she was referring to. So, she began to describe the box in great detail.
Conductor: Maybe someone turned it in to the lost and found. Which stop did you have it last?
Magdalena: I had it when I left Barcelona. I’m not sure – I switched trains.
Magdalena: (In a daze she motions towards the exit.) I have to go back
Conductor: Mademoiselle, it’s late. Why don’t you try again in the morning?
It was as if the air was being taken away from Magdalena. She reached out to grab the top of the seat to steady herself. Noticing her distress –
Conductor: What is your final destination?
Magdalena: (barely audible) Rome
Conductor: Rest here for the night. There are no trains going back to Barcelona this evening. In the morning, you can start with a fresh pair of eyes. I’m sure it will turn up. Can I assist you with finding accommodations?
She nodded in agreement.
As she walked to the hostel, her thoughts were all over the place. She began to recall the memories of when she first received the box – all the unanswered questions. Not wanting to cry, she began to chuckle at herself. She knew that the box, no matter how precious, was an object and it couldn’t contain the journey, lessons learned or the person she was today. However, she as the keeper, that was just as valuable to her as the journey.
For the next five days Magdalena retraced her route trying to figure out where she may have left it or if someone may have turned it in at any of the stations’ lost and found. Finally, arriving back in Barcelona on Sunday, not quite defeated, but steadily becoming weary of showing up in Spain empty-handed. She decided the same noon train as she had done a week earlier. This was the last time she would be able to trace her steps. The appointed time is set for Monday at 3:00 p.m.
“Señorita, Señorita”. A voice called out to her.
Magdalena turned to see the conductor from the first train ride that had made prior inquiries about the box. She smiled and thought; maybe he could shed some light as where he last saw the box.
Magdalena: Señor, I’m glad to see you!
Conductor: I bet you are!
With a surprised look on her face
Conductor: I have something that belongs to you.
The conductor went into the next car and return with the box wrapped in a cloth. In disbelief and with tears streaming down her face, she asked
Magdalena: Where did you find it?
Conductor: It was on the seat when you got off at Marseille. The cloth was missing but the box was there. I figured it must have slipped out. I looked for you, but you were gone.
Magdalena: I’ve spent the last five days retracing my steps, searching every station’s lost and found looking for it.
Conductor: Have you seen this box?! It’s too beautiful! There’s no way it would have made it to lost and found. With it being locked, it implies that it holds something of value inside.
Magdalena: Yes, I know all too well. Yet, you kept it to give it back.
Conductor: Señorita, I know it’s not my box. I have never seen anyone – how did the other passenger put it – ‘illuminate’ like you. So, it is not mine to keep. However, my curiosity is piqued beyond belief. It has created a lot of questions than I have answers. How have you managed over these few years?
Magdalena: First, I am forever grateful to you for keeping and returning it to me. Thank you.
I can’t begin to describe the unanswered questions and even more questions. You couldn’t imagine the thoughts that this box has conjured up inside me. But, at the end of the day, I had to come to the realization that the box was a conduit for my journey. Just as important, I was entrusted with its safe keeping.
Conductor: You said you received it anonymously, why you?
Magdalena: Why not me?
Shaking his head in disbelief
Conductor: Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to figure out. Again, more and more questions. I just don’t understand it nor could I do what you did or are doing.
Magdalena: (smiling and touching his arm with reassurance) Señor, my journey is not for you to or anyone else to understand. Everyone must take their own journey.
Conductor: I guess not. But, it’s all so mysterious.
(The train begins to slow)
Here’s your stop. This time don’t leave that precious commodity.
Magdalena: I won’t. I believe this detour was a part of my journey as well. Thank you again.
At the stairs with a warm smile, she reaches to hug him and he asks
Conductor: One last thing, do you know what’s in the box?
As she descends the last stair she turns to him and asks
Magdalena: Señor, what if the box was empty . . .
The train door closes behind her