On the Orient Express Missing the Corpse

Andreas greeted me at the entrance to the dining car. He nodded slightly and said, ‘Buona sera, signore. Your table is ready. 

He escorted me to my table, held the chair as I sat down, and then handed me the evening’s menu. Before he could ask me about an aperitif, Christian in spotless whites and chef hat was at my side proudly describing his creations for tonight, starting with an appetizer of steamed fillet of turbot and cannelloni filled with salt cod, Caviar, and dill cream, moving on to an entrée of roast rack of lamb and dry fruits in a spiced juice with fresh coriander yogurt complemented by buttered autumn vegetables and baked potato, followed by a selection of fine cheeses and a dessert of a marbled chocolate sphere with morello cherries and Szechuan pepper ice cream. Coffee would come with a variety of small pastry delicacies.

To the annoyance of a couple across the aisle that seemed anxious to use me as their audience, I buried my head in the Herald Tribune, raising it only to savor the exquisite courses each paired with an appropriate wine. After finishing dinner just shy of midnight, I headed back to my suite, avoiding the invitations to tarry in the bar car which was too noisy and crowded for my taste at that hour. Once alone in the cabin, I pressed the steward button. Vincenzo tapped lightly. I opened the door and ordered a cognac.

Bill and I had planned this trip together. The intention was to start in Venice for a week of museums, opera, and relaxing cappuccinos in Piazza San Marco. It would be our fourth visit to the paradise of cities. I had booked us into a boutique hotel overlooking the Grand Canal. Then it would be onto the Orient Express for a couple days passing through Vienna on our way to Prague. Bill had never been to Prague. I had been twice at politically momentous times—1969 and 1989. I was anxious to share the beautiful city with him. Back on the train, we would head through Paris ending in London and spend an additional week there enjoying Covent Garden, West End theatres, the British Museum, and the Tate. I had reserved us a room at The Goring Hotel near Buckingham Palace, which unbeknownst to me would six months later be used by one Kate Middleton and her family on the night prior to a small family wedding.

Yes, Bill and I had planned this trip together.

And we had planned TO TAKE this trip together.

But, he died.

I knew he would be furious with me if I didn’t still go.

So, for better or worse, I did.

The only in-depth conversations that I had during the three weeks were with Bill, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes joking, sometimes cursing him for not being physically by my side.

People mourn in their own unique ways. Some immerse themselves in the company of others.

I find solace in solitude.

That will change sometime, likely, maybe.

We’ll see.

* * *

August Farewell, my memoir of our 33-year love affair that culminated in Bill’s sudden death from pancreatic cancer, and my novel, Searching for Gilead, are available through http://amazon.com, http://barnesandnoble.com, http://amazon.ca, http://chapters.indigo.ca, http://amazon.co.uk. 

My website, http://DavidGHallman.com, contains more information about August Farewell including excerpts, readers’ comments, media coverage, reviews, and a YouTube video at http://bit.ly/jZrEbf 

The picture below is of Bill’s chair across from me at our table on the Orient Express. What a surprise – it’s empty.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “On the Orient Express Missing the Corpse

  1. Susan Young

    After reading your book (which I would recommend), I was taken with your authentic and honest portrayal of the hard work involved in accompanying Bill on his final journey. I was also taken with the "travel notes" (from memory) of the other more wonderful trips you had taken together over the years. From your descriptions in the books, it seems that I can be certain that Bill would have loved the fine china, crystal, and linens, the flowers in the silver bud vase, and the company across the table on this romantic trip on the Orient Express.

  2. Cindi Silva

    Although I haven’t read your book yet, and I am intending on reading it, I am so moved by what seems to be your innate ability to focus on the beauty of the love you and Bill shared and the many fabulous adventures you experienced together as a way of transforming pain and loss into healing and continuing on. This ability you have to be able to shift perspective is of great benefit and such a remarkable gift. It is so valuable and such a remarkable gift. I’m so glad you are sharing it universally by writing this book. I know when we are pushed part of this strength and ability is a wonderful gift from the love you both shared.

  3. Cindi Silva

    I accidentally pushed the submit button to soon — I know when we are pushed we reach inside to our innermost strength and are much stronger than we realized we could ever be, but still I wonder if part of your strength and this amazing ability is a part of Bill and the love that you both shared.I wish you healing, great happiness and peace.Cindi Silva

  4. jeff dillon

    Even just reading this small bit, I felt a connection to places I have necer been, to peoplle I have never met, and to aloss, that is so universal, in that, we long to be with those we love, and you have connected me to Bill, in just a few words. So, I thank you. Its hard to imagine having a lover and making plans like these, and going on alone, but his spirit shines in this small piece, as I cn tell, you did it all for love.

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