Marisa hails from Chicago, Illinois and has made her way across the pond to London after listening to The Beatles once. Earning a BA in English Literature, Film Studies, and Urban Studies from Manhattan College in the lovely Bronx, New York, she immediately continued on to a master’s in Creative Writing and Publishing at City, University of London. Her passion has always been writing and film. She is heavily influenced by her older sister, Maya. The first novel that had a tremendous impact on her life was Fahrenheit 451.
A short story about a young man who takes the same train route to work every day, but the only thing that is not often in his schedule is the frequent appearance of a young woman. He has seen her before and often wonders what she is like based on what she carries in her tote bag or is reading. While imagining a life with her, he must first muster up the courage to talk to her before it’s too late…
Her legs are crossed and she’s reading the same book I saw her with last week. It’s called Go with the Flow and from a quick Wikipedia search that I did, I know that it’s an autobiography about Edie Jones, the youngest Black female to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. Go with the Flow is 458 pages, I discovered after buying the book online, and although the lighting on the train keeps flickering, I can see that she is towards the end of the book. Her hair curtains around her face and I watch as she tucks some of it behind her left ear. It has six piercings in it and the right has four.
I pull down on my navy dress pants and feel a flood of regret vibrating through my entire body. My decision to wear this ugly ass green tie today was definitely a mistake. I knew that I would see her again. When I looked in my drawer this morning, five ties mixed in with some boxers and socks, I thought to myself, hm this tie matches her eyes. Though, after almost stepping in dog shit, nearly bumping into a man yelling at himself, and nearly missing the train; I sit here, staring at her, when it hits me. Her eyes are the shade of olives. They’re what stands out on her heart shaped face and above her pierced button nose.
I hate having to take the train almost every day for work. I miss my car. I miss the control that I had with it and being able to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Taking the train means being on other people’s time. If they’re late, then so am I, and lateness was never an attractive quality to me. As of lately, I’ve been more interested in taking the train. In fact, I’m starting to love it. I have to hide my smile every time I swipe my card at the turnstile, and when I’m standing at the platform waiting for the next train. The last few weeks and today are different than all of the other times.
She laughs at a sentence that she just read, and I wonder if it’s the part in which Edie talked about her embarrassing experience with skinny dipping or when she described the process of how she would relieve herself in the ocean: “When there’s nowhere else but the Atlantic…” Or maybe she’s reading the part when Edie talked about how she missed being at home with her family, how the ocean made her feel at peace yet so alone. It’s not particularly a funny part, but maybe this woman has a dark taste in humour. Either way, I find the way she laughs, refreshing. She doesn’t care about being that one weird person that laughs too loudly in public. She turns the page with a chipped black nail and sighs. I even love the way she sighs. She fills her mouth with air, holds it in for approximately 3 seconds and lets it out. Like a swimmer.
The first time I saw her, about two weeks ago, was through the closed doors of the train. She had just missed it and stood outside them with a frown on her face. She slammed a small fist against the doors, and as if they could retaliate, they opened again. She jumped inside with a grin on her face as if to say take that and took a seat across from me. She popped her wireless headphones over her ears and shut out the rest of the world.
I was on my way to work, an accounting office I was hired at just two months ago. I didn’t talk to anyone there unless I had to, and my co-workers returned the gesture. I’ve only been living in New York for a few years. The loud, busy streets were nothing like the middle-of-nowhere, rural roads of Kansas. Back home, everyone knew each other and there was no such thing as being a “nobody”. I could never be invisible, because everyone saw and judged me. Now, I am in a place where I can exist without anyone ever seeing me. I would never try to flirt with this beautiful woman in front of me then. Things are too different here. Though I still couldn’t help myself.
I kept glancing between her and my phone, as I read an article about the upcoming election. I noticed that she was one of those types of people that didn’t like to make eye contact with other riders. She kept her headphones in and her head down. She only glanced up a few times to peer over someone’s shoulder to look outside the window across the aisle. She didn’t care about what was happening around her, while I sat there, caring a little too much about her and what was happening in the present. Some time passed and I had to get off at my stop. I looked through the train’s windows as they passed and saw her head bobbing to the music playing in her ears. I still wonder what she was listening to.
I saw her again three days later. She made it on time. Her hair was pulled up in a high bun and I could tell her neck was long despite the copious amount of necklaces and chains she wore. This was when I saw her with Go with the Flow and wondered if she got headaches from reading on a moving train. There was a pregnant woman sitting next to her, gently pushing back and forth a stroller with a toddler inside. The toddler’s hand was reaching out towards her and I saw her smile. The pregnant woman whispered something to her and giggled. This prompted her to lean inside the stroller and grasp onto the toddler’s hand. I watched as she communicated with the baby without even speaking. It was as if they were teleporting messages to each other. The pregnant woman said goodbye to her and left the train when it arrived at her stop. The woman across from me continued to read her book that she had briefly bookmarked.
Between trying to figure out what the book was about and absently reading tweets on my phone, I thought about what type of person this woman might be. She looked young and cool, the type to go to every protest and help people come up with a funny, yet bold pun for their cardboard sign. The type to own a French press coffee maker. The type to ironically get a tattoo. The type to get chronic hangovers. The type that I could see myself falling for. If only I would just talk to her.
Luckily, she didn’t look like the other girls in Kansas. I’m sure she didn’t act like them either. I’m sure she used social media to spread awareness and occasionally post a sarcastic, melodramatic tweet about how liking a “certain terrible song” has determined that she, along with others, are the scum of the earth. Of course, I didn’t know if this was true or not, but I sure hoped so. More than that, she was the opposite of the last girl that I dated. My longest relationship, that shouldn’t have gone on for as long as it did. I feel as though I could finally use the voice that I have kept shut in my throat for so long. The voice that is hoarse whenever I do use it. I could talk to this woman and we could have a conversation that was enjoyable for the both of us. I could take her to a restaurant, hold her hand, make corny jokes, and finally tell her all of the things I have wanted for all of these days.
At that point, I would see her only on Mondays and Thursdays and I figured those were the days that she worked at her office. Or the days that she taught yoga. Or the days that she saw her therapist. Was she the type to go visit a therapist? Either way, she would travel for a while to get to wherever she was going. On one particular Monday, I stayed on the train to see what stop she got off at. I pretended to find the articles on my phone more interesting than they already were. Just the same old boring tweets about what this celebrity wore, and what that politician said. Luckily, I didn’t have to pretend for too long because she got off at the stop after my usual one. I got off along with her, I’m sure she noticed and thought I missed my stop, hopefully not thinking that I was following her. I was still too nervous and already late for work, to follow after her, so I let her go as she walked down the stairs of the platform to the street.
After watching her for nearly two weeks, I sit here and try to muster up the courage to cross over to her side of the train car and introduce myself. I would ask her, who are you? She sits across from me every Monday and Thursday and doesn’t notice me. Did she see that I wore a tie today that resembles the colour of her eyes? Does she know that she’s the only person that I think about, when I close my eyes at night and when I open them back up in the morning? Does she know that I’ve stopped hating my new life in New York? Does she know that this is all because of her? Notice me, I think, please notice me.
I glance at her and notice that she is already looking at me. This is the first time her beautiful olive shaded eyes have intentionally laid on me. It makes me wonder if I accidentally said anything aloud. If not, then I swear she has more powers than I thought she did. She dog-ears the page she is reading in her book and smirks at me. I smile back and she looks away to put her book back in her tote bag. The loss of connection does not rest easy on my faint heart. I tell myself to keep breathing. I feel smaller than my five foot eleven frame and have a slight shiver of unease.
I snap out of my hypnosis and finally introduce myself to her and ask her my long-awaited question.
“I’m Rose,” she says with a smile. My heart stops.
Rose. Beautiful, intricate, wild, and rare.
She crosses over and sits in the empty space next to me.
“I don’t know you, but I’ve seen you on the train. First car. Every Monday and Thursday. You get off at the stop before mine…” she adds with a chuckle, “except for that one day.”
“Yes. You’re right,” I tell her.
“I can’t believe we’re only just now talking to each other,” she tells me this, though in my head, I have had this conversation many times before.
We are close to arriving at our destination and I can’t help the wide smile I have on my face. The same smile that has been stitched to my face since the day I saw her. She asks if I mind going for a coffee later and offers me her number. I hand her my phone, glancing at the time it shows.
8:34 AM on the 4th of April. My life has changed. My phone is handed back to me and our hands touch as the train rumbles uncontrollably. The last thing I see before it all goes black, is the smile on Rose’s face.