I caught the S2 at 5:00pm and picked out a seat in the front carriage. I know it was the 5:00 that day and not the 5:06 because if I wanted a coffee and a cigarette before work I had to catch the 5:00. The train was new and still smelled like an unworn pair of sneakers, fresh out of the box. I opened my book and read a few lines as we glided along the tracks, streamlining through the tunnels beneath the city. When we pulled into the next station I looked up as a school of passengers sardined their way onto the train, jostling for vacant seats. I sat watching the fleeting rat race until the winners claimed their prizes and exhaled in relief. A pregnant woman came up from the back and the hierarchy of train etiquette came into play dictating that the crowd part and the youngest passenger give up their newly-earned seat. Distracted by the new group of people to watch, I put the business card from the restaurant I’d eaten at the day before in my book and looked around.
Despite the temperate weather outside, the man in front of me was dressed in a raincoat with an umbrella nestled between his legs. He looked down at my sandal-clad-feet and his face furrowed into confusion as he compared our attire. His eyes continued to rise until they met mine at which point they darted off in another direction. The woman next to him had her glasses on her forehead and was moving her iPhone back and forth in front of her face trying to read the small typeface while tapping her long, pink fingernails against the glass screen.
We came to the next station and a handful of passengers stood up and got off. Two teenage boys boarded the train dressed in shorts with high socks and cleats on. They picked out two seats across from one another, leaving one seat empty until a tall, young brunette holding a university folder and wearing white headphones in her ears sat down. She was sitting diagonally across the aisle from me and looked straight at me. For a brief moment we shared a stare until she broke it, instead opting to change the song on her phone. She was beautiful.
Suddenly disinterested in the other passengers, and not wanting to fixate on the girl, I reopened my book and read a few paragraphs. It was useless. I skimmed the words, internalizing none of them while intermittently glancing up at the girl, hoping she was doing the same. To my genuine surprise she was returning my looks with almost the same frequency. I began to get nervous thinking about what to say and when to say it. The brakes screeched to a stop at the next station, giving us both an excuse to look up from our respective attempts to appear focused on anything other than each other.
As the train rolled on, the light from the station faded into the depth of the tunnel and the windows once again regained their reflective properties. I looked straight ahead at the man with the umbrella for as long as I could but felt the opportunity to connect with the dark olive eyes slipping away as we creeped closer and closer to my stop. I leaned my head against the window and using it as a mirror I angled my sight to find her in its reflection. When I adjusted myself in my seat I was able to connect with those same eyes as the two blackened windows worked to cast back a colorless gaze directly into mine. Could she see me too or was it just a trick the mirrors were playing on me?
I lifted my head off the glass and craned my neck in her direction pretending to stretch. The man with the umbrella, the two boys in cleats, and the woman still trying to read her phone had all gotten up in anticipation of reaching the next stop. Finally, after about four minutes that seemed to last an hour, we were alone. I stood up, put my book in my bag and my bag on my back and walked into the aisle towards her. “Hello” I said, in my head. “Yea, hello’ll do.” I took a step in her direction, staring down at the sweat stains on my sandals. “No, not hello. Hey, or maybe how’s it going?” I looked up from the floor and smiled at her. The train began to slow to a stop in the station, it was now or never. She smiled back at me, “Yes!” I thought to myself.
The doors opened and people started to get off. I paused for a second and stopped right in front of her. It didn’t matter if I missed my stop, the coffee could wait, “I should give up smoking anyway”. I cleared my throat and spoke,
“Hello” I said. “Good start” I thought.
“Hi” She replied.
I paused for a second, “Shit, what now?”
“Is this the stop for Sarria?”
I walked off the S2 and onto the platform. The coffee was burnt and the cigarette was stale. The next day I took the 5:06