Monday, April 1, 2013

The Train Ride (a short story)

They entered the train together with the natural briskness of a native New Yorker; avoiding elbowing any elderly strangers. She couldn't help but do a double-take as a man possibly twenty-six years old, only a few years older than she, sat 12 feet away from her.

"Do not become infatuated", she told herself. "You see handsome men everyday. You feel the exact same urges and crushes. Don't look at him again!"

The doors slammed shut and the train began gliding along the rails in the direction of her home. The train stopped at the next station and as if she had no control of her neck and eye muscles, she turned to him again. This time she caught his eyes looking back at her. He quickly looked back down at his feet.

As the ride continued, the frequency of their glances increased. She was even fairly certain he would smirk a little each time they caught each other sneaking a peek. She wasn't sure what drew her to this man. He wasn't as good looking as other men she had come across on this same train ride. The kind she could get for a dime a dozen any other day of the week. He wasn't dressed like a man who was heading home from an exhausting day at his luxurious office. He was an ordinary man with an ordinary face and as far as she could gather, he probably led an extremely ordinary life. Yet, here she was, unable to stop herself from looking at him. His shaggy, dark brown hair was held out of his face by his green hoodie and his jeans were rather shabbily stitched together. No, he definitely wasn't her idea of sophisticated. After all, she was returning from a long day of work at a big-time attorney's office. Her boss was the kind of man she wanted to marry. As a young secretary, she knew she had no chance with her large, surly boss. She doubted even other co-workers would be interested in her.  For now, at least. She had plans to move up in the office ranks quickly. She had big dreams for her new job. For now, however, she was enamored with this rumpled boy on the train.

She tried not to look away too long, hoping he would recognize her interest. They both watched the crowds pour out at every stop, concerned this would be the others' stop and their coy interaction would be ended.

However, station by station, neither of them even began to put their things together in preface to leaving.

As the train emerged from the ground, she watched as snow hit the window pane. She was not looking forward to walking through the snow but watching it from the warm indoors was just lovely. As she turned to do her routine check-in with the man, she noticed he had now moved several seats closer to her. He gave her a smile to acknowledge his act. Letting her know she was responsible for it. Her smile was shy in response but unmistakable. She turned back to the window to watch the snow. She caught a glimpse of herself in the window. Trying to be inconspicuous, she inspected her half-formed image for any glaring faults, fly-aways, or smudged eyeliner. She concluded that she was reasonably presentable.

Several stops later, she noticed how close to her stop they were. She also noticed how close he was to her. She could now see his eyes clearer. They were green... maybe hazel. Whichever colour they were, they made him look like an honest man. They were large and reflected the train's lights in an almost cartoonish way. She could also smell him. Clearly, he had overdone the cologne, but she didn't mind the pungent musky odour he was emitting. The smell was how she thought a man should smell. She worried that she would have to get off the train first. In which case, she didn't know what she would do. She could initiate conversation but that wasn't really a skill she had. Men made her nervous. She had never outgrown that adolescent discomfort.  If he got off first, he would have to make the first move. Would he?

As they approached the 18th avenue stop, he stood up and walked to the doorway. She was overjoyed, she didn't imagine forty minutes after their initial glances, they would be then getting off at the same place. This was perfect. She knew he felt the same when she stood up and waited by the door next to him. His smile was all-revealing.

The train came to a halt and the doors opened. They exited the automatic doors and he placed a cigarette between his lips. He turned to her. "You look just like my friend's sister." He continued speaking for a bit but his words were incoherent through the cigarette in his mouth. She just smiled, excited by the conversation that was finally taking place. The one she had been waiting for the entire ride.

"Are you related to this guy named Lorenzo in the area?"

He had a certain air of confidence and disinterest that told her he was a true Italian Brooklynite. She shook her head.

"You look so much like her. It was driving me nuts the whole train ride."

He walked through the exit door. Without looking back at her, he shouted, "All right. Have a good night!"

His pace sped up as he walked in the opposite direction from her own.

She stopped walking and said under her breath, "What the hell?"

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