subject line: to the man sitting across from me on the subway


New York

It was 10pm. A Saturday in June. I’d just gotten on the A (or maybe it was the C) headed uptown at the West 4th street station. The train was quiet. There weren’t very many people aboard. I was wearing a white collared linen dress, tan Oxford shoes, my black hair was done up, and I carried a black purse and some pastries in a white plastic bag that read “Panya.” You were sitting across from me. You wore a blue and white vertical-striped button down shirt, khaki pants, and brown boat shoes. You had a gray watch on your left wrist, and more interestingly a bright pink neon band on the right wrist; the black text on it said “UNICORN”. You were hunching forward, elbows resting on your thighs.

A minute into the subway ride, I realized you were looking at me. Your gaze was too deep to have been a happenstance moment of our eyes randomly meeting. You must’ve been looking at me since I sat down. In that brief glance I realized how handsome you were–you had short dark hair, you wore form-fitting clothes, you had no facial hair. I was nervous, smitten, that you’d notice me, but I was glad because it was a day I had dressed up, so I knew I didn’t look too bad.

Out of nervousness, I looked off to my right, at the train window as tunnel lights flashed by. I could feel your steady gaze on me from my peripheral vision, but I wasn’t brave enough to meet your eyes again. For that, I’m sorry. Every time you looked away, I stole the moment to take a glance at you, and confirm my hunch that you were in fact handsome and adorable. But when you looked at me again, I looked away. In the moment, I tried to convince myself you were not staring at me, but I’m quite sure you were; I wouldn’t have been so nervous otherwise. I played with the jewelry and rings on my fingers to keep me busy as the train moved slowly onward. You checked your phone for a bit. So did I. I had my white spaghetti-string headphones in, but no music was playing; I was listening to a slow soundtrack of silence, hearing every second go by as a missed opportunity to say something to you.

At 34th street Penn Station, a man stepped in asking “This goin’ downtown?” You said, “Going uptown.” Hearing your voice was lovely. You sounded exactly like I would’ve imagined. You seemed immediately sweet, without being overly saccharine.

As we reached the 42nd street Port Authority station, you and I both started to fix our positions to leave. I was excited to notice you were getting off at the same stop. I left the train first, and started to walk up the steps, hoping that maybe I’d still be walking with you when we left the station. I made it through the crowd of people rushing down to catch the train that was still there. At the top of the steps, I turned around. I saw that you went back on the train; you were sitting down again. You moved to the train car next to “ours.”

I was so confused; why did you change cars? Did you realize it wasn’t your stop? You were ready to get off the station well before the train conductor announced the stop…You should’ve known what stop it was. Did you get off at the station just to try to catch me, but then somehow changed your mind as I walked up the steps? Did you just hate that one train car, so you wanted a change in scenery? I like to think that you were considering leaving with me; I was sad to see you go.

The train doors were still open. I even considered running down the steps to get back onto that train. I hesitated for a few good seconds as the car doors hesitated to close; they beeped a few times as if they’d shut, but they didn’t, as if they were giving me a last chance to make a move. But I figured, as I saw you sat down, my chance was over. So I continued on my way.

I would’ve loved to start a conversation with you, to ask you, “Is this train going uptown?” just to hear more of your voice. I wish I held your gaze. I wish I smiled when you looked at me. I wish I said “hello.” I wonder what we’d talk about. I wonder what you’re like. I don’t doubt you’re sweet; how could I be so sure? I don’t know, yet I feel that I know. And I feel right about that.

I’ve never enjoyed glancing at someone on public transportation before. I’ve never regretted not saying something to someone like this ever before, so I write about it even a few days after the event. I keep looking for you in crowds and in the streets of New York, as if I’d find you magically in front of my eyes like you happened to be sitting in front of me that Saturday evening. Maybe you’ll see this. Maybe you feel the same way. Maybe I’ll see you again, on the A, or maybe it was the C, going uptown.