He really wasn’t that attractive. Cute enough, but maybe a decade too old. But he stood so close to me, I couldn’t help but inhale his subtle cologne. At first, he kept his distance, standing three inches away. By the next stop, however, his arm brushed my shoulder, and I as I turned to let someone off, I knew it would lead to much more.
Sure enough, the top of my shoulder nestled under his arm, and he smiled down at the top of my head, no doubt inhaling the flowery fragrance of my freshly shampooed hair. He closed his eyes. So did I. We made incredible music–okay, separately–through our respective earphones. Mine were black, noise-blocking, and almost imperceptible. His were white, dangling in front of his neck for all to see, and very new.
We couldn’t have been any closer to one another, at least dressed. His wool top coat was free of lint. So soft, so dark. I knew he wasn’t a smoker, because the scent of spices lingered on his sleeve. He knew I wasn’t a smoker because the scent of my extravagant $100 perfume purchase from “France” in Disney’s Epcot lingered on my quilted, very stylish raincoat.
And when the train lurched to a sudden stop, I was suddenly enveloped in his arms–well, one arm. I opened my eyes and looked up at him, only to find him gazing down at me. Those pale gray-blue eyes, so intense, so filled with wonder. He pretty much willed me to speak.
“Sorry,” I muttered as I tried to shift my stance, which only caused my side to mold closer to his, and my hip to find a resting spot against his thigh.
“It’s okay,” he whispered, closing his eyes again. Was it me who had caused this rapturous-like look? Was it the full length of my body–at least one side of it–pressed intimately against his that then prompted his long sigh? Maybe I was moving too close, too fast. But I couldn’t help it. This journey was out of my control. I felt him change the song on his iPod with his free hand.
As more commuters pushed into the train car at the subsequent stops, I was forced to almost, but not quite, snuggle my head against his rib cage. How would it feel, I wondered, if I were to simply allow myself to lose myself in the cinnamon-scented cashmere he wore. I almost had no choice but to find out as the train continued its stop-and-go hiccup pace to the next stop. If I didn’t lean into him, I would fall or stumble into the teenager standing just to the other side of me.
And this much I knew: If close quarters were going to force me to share my body with anyone on a subway train to work, it wasn’t going to be with the high school kid toting an SAT prep booklet. No, I had my below-ground boyfriend right where I wanted him. Keeping me upright, keeping me steady from one part of town to another.
And then our relationship ended so quickly, I wasn’t sure how it happened. Another woman (isn’t it always another woman?) mouthed, “Excuse me,” as she pushed between us to make her way a foot closer to the door, and we broke our almost embrace. And then the teenager angled himself just a little too close for comfort in order to let her through on his side, and I had to step back, just a few more inches, from the new man in my life.
It was over, then. I knew it. I accepted it. Besides, mine was the next stop.
This is why I take the bus, more mornings than not. I always get a seat to myself.