The train creaks through the surrounding suburbs, wheels of steel and squeaky shocks grinding like the springs of an old mattress. Trees and hedges of rolling ivy stream past our windows like the stars on that Disneyland ride, the one that cons children into thinking they’ve been catapulted through space.
Another train is waiting for us already when we pull up to the platform, its doors opening and inviting, the LIRR just as eager to get us fuck out of Jamaica station as we are to leave it. Another ding, another rush towards a train. This time I have no strategic advantage; everyone spills out of the doors and rushes towards the bigger train, all at once.
I shuck. I jive. I run up a set of stairs and set my sights on the first chair I can find. All I see is the crossed legs of a man across from it and a book on top.
“Excuse me? Is this seat taken?”
I throw my acid-wash sack above my head, pull a Lara bar out of my purse, dig for my water bottle and then finally look up.
Oh, hello. You’re quite attractive.
Upon the realization that I just sat across from Handsome Man, I become immediately self-conscious and fairly uncomfortable. Our chairs face each other, windows to one side and aisle to the other. We position our legs so as to not accidentally become too friendly too quickly, though there is a part of me that wishes desperately that I were a total, presumptuous lunatic and wouldn’t think twice about propping my legs in his lap. Do people do that? Because I want to do that. When I think about what stops me from doing that – crossing the thin line between sanity and insanity – my head hurts.
I alternate between staring at his forearms and watching the girl behind him across from me. She’s everything that’s not good about summer dressing. She and her travel companion (Oh, poor boyfriend) match one another, accidentally or otherwise, in an aggressive shade of Pasteurized Orange Juice, her woven Tory Burch tote resting at her feet, a creamy satin pillow with her initials monogrammed at the end.
My copy of the New Yorker is going by and large unread. I spend about three hours thinking of how to engage in conversation with a total stranger without coming off as a creep. The train is too strangely quiet and everyone within a six-seat radius would know what I was up to. I have a newfound respect for men, even the most horrible of douche bags who come up to me out of nowhere and attempt to converse with me. What a horrible, horrible feeling where a leaden gravitational pull fights total insecurity-based repulsion.
My station comes. I get up, still having said really not much else to him aside from my “Is this seat taken?” opener. I grab my bag and squeak out a “Have a nice weekend” for nothing more than a polite acknowledgement that we have shared the same, partially confined space for the 1/8th of a day.
I am immediately berated by all the friends whom I reached out to during this silent ordeal in a quest for answers, my “What should I do?” quandary responded to with fervent pleas that I just get the hell over myself and “DO SOMETHING, IDIOT!”
One friend, having given up, offers me only this: “Maybe you see him around the Hamptons this weekend, in which case…fate.”
I won’t see him all Labor Day weekend. A week later, however, I will be at a random work dinner of 12 strangers and 2 friends, and he’ll be there.
It’s a small, small train out there.
[Photo: Courtesy of backgroundsarchive.com]