Familiars on a train
Editor’s Note: This guest post submitted by Amanda Green. No, this isn’t the new, softer side of SUBWAYblogger. But it is a nice subway related story.
When I broke up with my ex-boyfriend Cade, he left my apartment without hugging goodbye, walked down Central Park West, and disappeared.
For months, I’d look out for him as I walked around the Upper West Side. We didn’t live all that far apart – my feet must have covered his tracks myriad times. Then he started working at an office downtown near mine.
But we never saw each other again.
Last Friday, I rushed through the turnstile as the subway pulled into the station. I got on a car farther back from the one I usually ride. The train doors closed. I sat and opened a book.
The train stopped. I kept reading. The train stopped. I looked around. The train started, got to a station, and stopped. The conductor announced that there was a delay due to a sick passenger.
I sat and kept reading until the train was taken out of service.
Over the loudspeaker, the announcer yelled to exit. To take the 1 downtown, which wouldn’t get me where I needed to be.
I got out with a sigh and saw Cade. Speaking of not getting where you needed to be…
Two years ago, I broke up with him, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Cade was the first serious adult relationship I ever had. He made me want normal things that feel crazy when you’re 22 – kids, a house, only one man the rest of my life.
It was new and impulsive and painful. We stayed up too late and together too long. We could never be friends after everything that happened.
Sometimes I thought maybe we’d never really been friends. I told him once I’d just realized we’d never talked about God. Did he believe in a He? Why didn’t I know? He shrugged and said, “Sometimes I feel like I just can’t talk to you.”
Cade and I stood on the platform a few feet apart and said hello. He’s now a strange familiar. Like one of those nameless guys you ride the elevator with each day, some neighbor you hear crying through the bedroom wall.
We talked about the sick passenger and the nature of time.
He said, “I can’t believe this isn’t awkward.”
“Believe me, any hard feelings I ever had have been passed down to someone else,” I replied.
We laughed, and I said, “I’m learning your voice again.” I used to hear it in my sleep.
When the 1 train came, we stood next to each other. We creeped downtown and later saw the 2 train back in service across the platform. We quickly dashed to it and sat next to each other.
I told him this would make an excellent short story, but we needed the tension to rise. Something needed to happen. Perhaps a revelation.
Cade shrugged, and I explained it could be someone else’s revelation. It didn’t have to be one of ours.
We agreed to meet again Sunday.
He bought dinner even when I offered to split it, and then we went to this place a block over for some drinks.
We sat across from each other and Cade said, “I think TBID made a huge mistake when he broke up with you.” I know he doesn’t like me enough to feel he has to say that, so it meant a lot.
As the night wore on, we talked about the separate failed relationships that followed the one we had.
People didn’t love us enough to stay. People said one thing and did another.
When you break up with someone, you sometimes have these fantasies of seeing them again and not giving a damn. This often occurs while listening to Gloria Gaynor.
You see yourself months healed, looking good. Wearing clothes you don’t own. Or clothes you own that suddenly fit you better.
Your ex-love looks the same, not better without you. He or she looks at you longingly as you smile, unfettered by grief or regret.
This fantasy will soothe you in three-minute intervals.
But here’s what really happens: You’ll find each other again randomly. You’ll probably be wearing nothing special. You’ll be exhausted from staying up too late the night before.
Your ex-love will look how you recall, but will gaze at you with more curiosity than longing.
He’ll look pleased to stumble upon the girl who ripped his heart out a few years ago. Then stomped on it. Then blogged about how she stomped on it.
Later, you’ll sit across from each other in the dark and laugh. You’ll remind him he called you fat. He’ll look pained.
He’ll get something off his chest he should’ve said years ago. You would’ve cared then, but now it’s fine. No big deal.
You’ll tell him funny ways he haunted you. He’ll mention that weird sound you used to make.
No one wants exactly those things back. But something like them with someone else someday would be nice.
Afterward, you’ll wait at the subway together for your separate trains. He’ll ask if he can pick the lint off your fuzzy black hat. You’ll say yes.
You’ll look like friends.
His train will arrive. This time he’ll hug you goodbye.