The train was not too packed, but there were plenty of people surrounding me as I sat on the seat. In 14 stops I would arrive near my destination, alone. I looked around, a woman with a puppy kernel and a bandana around her head, three girls who looked to be of Russian descent sat across me, dressed in pastels with blue, blue eyes—they eyed me slightly unkindly—a woman standing in front of me holding on to the rail smiled quickly at me, I returned the smile and then I saw him… He was tall, wearing a black long-sleeved shirt, light gray shorts, and a navy blue rosary around his neck. His hair was untamed, tussled and thick dark brown; it went well with his tan skin and with the navy blue tattoos hidden on his chest. He was so interesting to me.
I sat wearing a light navy blue shirt and jeans, a flower clip on my hair which was extra wavy due to the humidity from the day’s ongoing rain. I was listening to Alone, Alone, an instrumental song by Hungry Ghosts and I stared up at him. Oddly enough we both smiled to each other, it was one of those shy smiles in which your eyes crease at the sides and your cheeks make your face look extra cubic. The smiles lasted about five second and in those five seconds I saw in him what I am certain that he saw in me. I saw kindness and understanding coming from a complete stranger. I felt a feeling of exhilaration at the openness that we both gave to each other. Our exchanging smiles fit together, like a bolt and a socket.
My heart was pounding and my blood was rushing in sync with this young man’s smile. My thoughts rushed by so quickly, I hardly had a chance to catch them. I can’t remember my thoughts from that moment, only how I felt about our exchange. As I looked on and he looked on, I felt safe, understood, cared for, and seen as beautiful with no restrictions. We kept smiling at each other; not knowing what to do we almost began chuckling. At that moment, it was only he and I on the train and our silent conversation felt as soft and overwhelming as silk cloth enveloping the body. He was so interesting.
I looked away; I could no longer fight his gaze. Normally I am the last to pull away, but for some reason this complete stranger broke my rules, my laws, and changed something in me at that moment. I was so shocked to feel the shyness and the blushing of my cheeks as I looked down onto my lap. I felt as if he were still looking, I still felt the warmth he brought forth in me—safety and understanding. I thought about the exchange that just occurred and then I looked at him again. Again, the smiles came naturally, that same smile that you would give someone who inspires you, admires you, and makes you feel as if all in the world is right for a split, everlasting second.
I felt as if the sun were shining its rays onto me on a cold winter day. I felt warm and cozy; it was just he and I smiling at each other again. The shyness bubbled up within my body and face once again because I could not bear the love emanating from him smile and from mine. I didn’t even know his name! I looked away quickly again, down to my feet this time as I continued to think about him. This happened once more and then no more after that, he got off at Union Square Station, before Astor, where I would leave the train and the encounter behind. I tried to catch a glimpse of him as he exited the train, but the reality was that the train was quite populated and I could not see his face again. He had a strong, but kind face. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his eyes turn onto my face before he disappeared. I had half hoped that he would have gotten off at Astor instead of Union Square, but in life things are ephemeral.
As the train neared my stop I felt a twinge of regret. I wish I could have introduced myself, gotten his name, had dinner with him. That evening I dined alone in a Bangladeshi Restaurant in which the waiter serving me was so friendly that he placed a kiss on my cheek and asked me to go to a bar with him so that we could have drinks and dance. I told him I was underage, not 21 yet and he said that instead of drinks we could just dance. I told him maybe and I thought about the young man I met on the train with his tousled hair and light-brown skin. He was so beautiful outwardly and inwardly. I wanted to have met him. I regret it now, I regret not introducing myself when I had the chance. I felt ashamed that I was so immobilized by his smile and his gaze.
Another man at the restaurant who was a bit older was holding a bottle of wine and he said hello to me. He was just as friendly as the waiter and asked me if I would like to join him for a drink. I was just about to leave; I was so shocked at how much attention I was receiving by these men who I knew nothing of, unlike that young man on the train. Although I didn’t know where he came from, his name, or particularly where he was going, I knew him better than I knew some of my closest friends and he knew me the same. We were on the same level and I hope that he is thinking of me right now.
As I walked back to the train station to head home, I kept seeing all of these young couples so madly in love. I felt as if the universe were trying to tell me that I gave up on an opportunity to find something like that. An opportunity to even make a friend like that, so kind and understanding—someone who bared their soul on their face, like I. I kept seeing him in my mind, feeling his smiles and warmth, that shyness over and over again and then, when I realized that I would most likely never see him again, I felt more alone than I had felt in a long, long time. The train just kept moving Uptown and I was swaying with its motions as all of the couples embraced, gazed into each other’s eyes, and laughed together.