Here is another story I wrote for a friend years ago. As with other stories I’ve written as gifts, I speak directly to the reader throughout it, keeping the action in the present tense. I’ll be posting it in pieces in the coming days.
The train isn’t especially crowded. I’ve been seated for a few minutes and I’m still surrounded by open seats. You catch my attention unexpectedly. I’d figured on sitting by myself, scribbling some notes, and perhaps doing some reading. No, you change all that. You board, carrying just a small bag. As you nudge your way around an elderly passenger, you scan the car. I’m shamelessly staring at you when our eyes meet. For less than a breath, a slight fear chills me. You’re going to expose me with a roll of your eyes. However, in place of the sighing or tongue clicking I’d expected, you give me a warm, broad smile. I return it, possibly chuckling as I do. I’m surprised and relieved by your response. You approach, looking down as you tiptoe around a few settling passengers. Each time you look up, we reconnect and exchange the smile again as though to confirm each of us meant it the first time. Making your way to me takes less than a minute, but in that short span, my heart responds by speeding warm blood through me with unusual force. A slow but deliberate “Hello” rolls out of you and you inquire with only a gesture about the seat across from me. I gesture in turn that it’s free. You thank me, gratefully taking it.
A brief moment passes in silence as you get seated and situated. The train gives a shake and the clanking cars begin to roll. I calculate how long I should wait before talking to you. Headphones or a book might signal a desire for solitude. I want to catch you before you begin such a retreat, but also I don’t want to intrude. You did pick this seat for a reason, didn’t you? Other seats were available, weren’t they? We’ll be riding together for long enough to get to know one another, but the longer I wait, the more forced and strained starting will feel. You stir my apprehension and eagerness simultaneously with the ridiculously short length of your skirt. It conjures schoolboy horniness just as it makes me doubt that someone confident enough to wear it would give me a chance. Too many times I’ve missed opportunities. Not this evening.
I begin. Having a relatively quiet, empty train is pleasant for a change, isn’t it? You agree. The right train can be a refuge of sorts, don’t you think? Yes again. With the introductory dialogue out of the way, I sense an easing of any tensions between us. You make no move to read or listen to anything. Your attention is on me. We continue. Easy smiles and small talk about travel destinations follow. You shift a bit in your seat when I remark about meeting fellow travelers and about the seductively romantic nature of train travel. I lament how rarely people follow up on unexpected encounters and how reticent we all are to take chances. You share how sad you find this and how you’ve vowed to avoid collecting regrets. Now curled up with your legs under you on your seat, you face me and share your sense that we’re kindred spirits. I suggest perhaps that’s why you took the seat across from me over any of the free seats in the car. Since we’ve been talking with such space between us, forcing us to raise our voices, I ask if I may take the seat to your right. You turn, tilt your head, and pat the empty seat cushion. You send me a sly grin.
Miles and hours pass. Although I’m totally engaged, I’m also aware of the time and place. We’re both continuing to the final stop, but that final stop is just a few stops ahead. I become anxious, wondering how parting will unfold. Through the ride, we have few lapses of silence between us. The only notable one involves you reaching in your bag and taking the time to write something on a scrap of paper. I can’t see what you’ve written. You keep it to yourself. I wonder what it is, but I don’t ask. After stuffing it away, you touch up your lipstick. I like watching you do that. It almost distracts me from my distraction. I find myself anxiously pondering what is going to happen when the train stops and we have to split. My thoughts drift far away from our conversation and into a harbor of doubt. You bring me back with your immediacy and proximity.
Often during the conversation, you toss your head and hair back with a laugh. Several times, your hand finds my knee. No one is around us. Topics roll into one another without seam. Following one of your animated laughs, I tell you how glad I am that you picked this car and that you caught me checking you out. I share how flattered I am that you’re talking with me. You share how someone so cute shouldn’t be so surprised about getting some attention. You tell me you like getting checked out by the right guy. The conversation is flirty, but not quite dirty. We keep it suggestive, but not quite explicit. Taking a risk, I joke that I can’t pretend I hadn’t started mentally undressing you upon seeing you. Again you laugh, again easing any possible tension. Your comeback stops me though, as you playfully inquire about what I saw you wearing under your clothes.
Part 2 in a few days…