This is a story I wrote years ago, before I ever lived in NYC. I’m writing a short story a day for thirty days, and due to internet problems, I’m now playing catch up. I wrote a second draft of this one, which I wrote a couple years back and never did anything with, a twist on this writing exercise-interesting for me in that it shows how/how not my writing style has changed, also because I”m not really sure what I’m talking about. Enjoy:
I saw you on the subway the other night, I can’t remember when, recently it seems, maybe you know. You were on the A-train, in case you didn’t know that, while I was on my train, but you were close enough that I could see it was definitely you. I did my little wave with my ring and pinky fingers slack so it looks like an ill-defined peace sign—I do that on purpose, you know—and you waved back. Well, I think you waved back. You could have been simply practicing your wave, but I figured you wouldn’t be because there were other people on your train and that’s not a good time to practice. I smiled at you next, because what else was there to do? You smiled back, but you could have just as well been making faces in the reflection, or smiling at me because you didn’t recognize me and thought you’d just caught some subway nut making faces to himself in his reflection, unaware anyone was watching.
So yeah, that was me on the subway. I was going home, I think. It’s not clear. My stop was sooner than I expected and unfamiliarly familiar. You know what I mean. Maybe you were going home too, but how could I know that if I could barely remember my own stop? Maybe you were heading out of town to visit some new friends.
I think last time we spoke we realized we had had a stop or two in common, but since I didn’t know you then, I guess they weren’t really. Is that stop where we saw each other now a common stop? Probably not—I don’t usually go there, and it seems I’ll be taking the subway less. I’m thinking of buying a bicycle. Just waiting to happen by a decent used one. I’ll probably have to replace the tires and muck around with the bottom bracket but it’s better than the subway.
I don’t know about you, but I’m never lined up with the train. I can’t predict it’s capricious timing well, and I always start to run to catch it too late. Sometimes I just take a few symbolic jogging steps to make myself look tragic to the people I run past, that I really needed that train. Sometimes I can hear it, but I’ve put my pass in another pocket and have to frantically search as I get jostled, and then I hear the push of the wheels as it pulls away. I remember you telling me about missing a train and you made that sort of happy-sounding groan that folks from our area all make. Were you trying to catch the A-train that time? What pocket was your pass in? Maybe you needed another train that day. I’m not sure. But anyway, that was me on the other train, and you know what’s strange? Seeing you there, I wasn’t even surprised, just sad.