Attractive people on subways are like pee puddles: Obscenely ubiquitous to the point where you’ll only notice them after a quick whiff that makes you wonder 1) is that really what it was and 2) did you step in it. Since living in this city, I’ve learned to see the impeccable human puddle effect as sort of an offset to the butt-clenching cost it takes to ride the subways.
So it’s not unusual to see a dark-haired, attractively bearded man sitting at the end of the subway cart you walk onto one Saturday afternoon. You’re standing to his side, holding the pole as the train departs, taking side glances around you, at ads for wax figures, at the other passengers, and back to the guy. Nose, profile, wiry mouth, all check out to be suspiciously similar to the Ryan Gosling you have pictured in your mind. But of course this is no place for someone like him! Maybe some mid-priced Greenwich bar hangout that’s never more than sparsely filled by small numbers of 30-somethings, but the subway? It’s not exactly how you’d imagined it – you’re wearing jeans that are really baggy in the butt and probably have mascara crusted in your eyelids – what in life ever happens how you imagine it? One time you and your friend met Will Smith, and your friend peed her pants afterward, so there you go.
Since you have nothing else to do on your commute back to Brooklyn, you decide to solve this personified mind puzzler. Ok, reasons why Ryan Gosling would be on a subway heading to Brooklyn: 1) food? 2) friends? 3) Huffington Post just called Brooklyn the new Paris? Basically the same reasons as you. Brooklyn is cool, and he’s got to get there somehow! It’s not like celebrities fly around in cars like the Jetson’s. He’s probably going to a friend’s place for a dinner party or some low-key thing, because he’s laid-back and not caught up in himself at all. Damn, this is just exactly what you’d imagine him doing.
You mentally and with growing excitement check off “demeanor” on your list of criteria for being Ryan Gosling and move on to wardrobe. It’s just a plain looking utility jacket with a black hoodie underneath. Super obvious, to be sure, and maybe too obvious. Too much like what he’s wearing all the time in those “Stars, they’re just like us” shots. Ok, you need to quit this. Why are you getting so obsessed? You haven’t read US Weekly or even Perez Hilton in like a YEAR. You turn your head and look away, but your brain resists like a fat-fingered kid reaching for the candy bars in the grocery store line. You’re still watching him out of the corner of your eye for signs – but what signs, you don’t know. He’s fidgeting – is that a sign? You think about yelling his name right now, or just the first syllable of it at least.
You’re wondering why no one else seems to be wondering what you are. You look around at your fellow passengers, pleading with your eyes for someone else to acknowledge this possibly Academy Award nominated person in your midst, but nothing. The Notebook?! Anyone, seriously?! You’re appalled at the ignorance of New Yorkers, now, how elitist and complacent they seem and unwilling to engage in human interaction. Why do subways have to be underground where there are no chances of picking up a wireless signal? You could be googling “Ryan Gosling’s Whereabouts April 2011” and at least know if he’s been spotted anywhere else in the city. Then at least you’d have a little piece of mind, instead of being left hanging in this cart, wobbling with the weight of your questions and this man’s unnatural attractiveness.
Though maybe, you think, it’s better if it’s not really him. If you did start talking and hit it off, that whole fame thing would be so hard to deal with, being gone all the time, gorgeous costars and what not. And how awful would it be, really, to just essentially befriend/date the clone of Ryan Gosling who does something normal but cool like work in a coffee shop and grow vegetables out his window? Not awful at all! You decide that no matter what, you will talk to this guy. Just get to know him whether he is Ryan Gosling or Lance from Rhode Island or whoever.
Now the train is stopping and he’s standing up. He gets off and you realize it’s your stop too! You exit the train after him, about four or five steps separating you. This feels uncomfortably like stalking, even though is it still considered stalking if you don’t even know who it is? You walk faster in order to pass him. Once he’s behind you, you remember again your saggy jeans and vow to do your laundry right when you get home and do it every week from now on, because you will not let yourself get stuck in another situation like this with your rear assets hiding behind so many frowning waves of denim.
Now you’re far ahead of him and you’re coming to your block where you have to make a turn. You hear him talking to someone, but you’re not even going to bother turning around to see if it’s to you because this whole situation with whoever-the-hell this is has been beyond botched. As you’re getting to the door of your apartment, you’re feeling exhausted from all that questioning, the build-up, the let-down, the re-build-up, the friction. And you wonder: What kind of a crazy, mixed-up city is this? To be having to question – constantly – the identities of everyone around you? And then, after all that questioning, still never knowing for sure? Who is to be trusted? Who is safe?
You’re thinking about all of this and that movie Catfish in particular, just as you’re getting to the top of your stairs and to your front door, just as your phone is ringing and your best friend is calling you. “I just saw Ryan Gosling!” you blurt immediately and from then on, that was the story and you would never question it again.