You wear sneakers.
Not weird red ones, but black ones, with grey lining and dark heels, which blend against the black of your neatly pressed pants. You always seem to be immaculate – your shirt crisp, your tie straight, your shoes looking as new as they did two years ago. I think you really like those shoes. Maybe they’re lucky.
You like coffee. I rarely see you without a steaming cup from Starbucks in your hand while you sip it over The New York Times. I wonder if you put sugar in your coffee or if you like it black; I like my coffee with cream and two sugars, but I think I like it sweet because I’m a girl. You probably like it black. You always nod at me when you sit down – you must recognize me, as we’ve both taken the 8:30 to 16th St. Mission for the past twenty-five months.
Once in a while, I see you calling a taxi at night: you must work nearby (unsurprising, as this street is really just offices and buildings stacked like dominoes.) But you only call taxis on those days when you look haggard, fingers shaking as morning paper cuts crease your fingers. Bad days. Days when all you’re looking for is a ride uptown so you can douse your troubles in tequila and lime and wake up in someone else’s perfume.
Not that I notice.
Last summer I saw you with a girl; a pretty girl with copper hair and bright scarves and a voice like thirteen silver bells. Every now and then she’d board the train with you, and I’d watch you laugh and twinkle at her. For seven months, you would nod and smile at me, and that always made me smile – you must have been so happy, you were spreading your happiness to everyone around you. I liked how, for seven months, you wore your tie over your shoulder, or loose around your neck, and you didn’t have bad days.
But during the winter, you stopped trying. Your eyes were bloodshot and your skin was pale, and your clothes were sharp against your skin with that kind of steely hardness of someone trying not to care. I noticed that you carried a small metal flask in your messenger bag, next to your finance magazines and packets of instant coffee. From then on, everyday was a bad day.
I liked how you cared, because it’s hard to find people who care.
For the next six weeks, I folded my already-flipped-through copy of The New York Times on your bench, just so you wouldn’t spend the fifteen quiet minutes staring blankly at the train tracks (as picking up the paper seemed to be the least of your problems.) I wonder if you noticed. I wonder if you knew it was me.
Last week, you started nodding again, and you didn’t smell like alcohol when you bent down to place your bag on the floor. You smelled rather nice, like peppermint and sandalwood. The scent spun around in my head halfway to Bayfair.
I like that your hair is always slightly disheveled, as though you try, but you don’t care enough to rake it into perfect strands. Your eyes change color too – some days they’re hazel, and some days they’re more turquoise. Sometimes the turquoise matches your tie – I like those days.
You’ve talked to me four times – once, to ask what time the next train is; once, to say sorry for hitting me with your bag; once, to give me my wallet, which I had dropped; and once, to comment on the nastiness of the train strikes, during which the trains hadn’t run for over a week. I like your voice – it’s a bit low, but it’s nice.
You look like you’re in your mid-twenties, like me, but you could be in your early thirties too. You don’t know my name, and I don’t know yours – I bet it’s something like Michael, or John, or something like that. I wonder if you notice me: notice that I smell like a mix of designer samples and gifted body spray, or that I always forget my lipstick until the moment I’m boarding the train. I wonder if you noticed the two months after my father died when my eyes were red and my shirt was stained with coffee and my eyes forgot to reach for yours across the platform.
I wonder if you notice the diamond band on my ring finger, or the wedding pamphlets in my bag, or if you ever wonder if I really love him.
I wonder if you ever think about me, the way I think about you.