On the C train, headed uptown.
Online dating has ruined me. Serial dating. The constant stimuli of opening up an app on my iPhone, swiping and judging and sending these fleeting messages that bails me out of feeling any sort of rejection, because once I press "send", I'm onto the next candidate.
There's a woman sitting across from me on the subway. Gorgeous. She's playing sudoku, or maybe a crossword puzzle - the old-fashioned way, with a pen and newspaper. Not this app bullshit. I see her tapping her pen with her left hand. No ring on her finger. She looks up at me. Human interaction. My eyes immediately dart to my phone. After 30 years of life, I still can't shake the instinct to immediately avert my eyes when they lock with those of a beautiful woman.
She takes a break from her crossword, or sudoku and looks at her phone. Maybe puts on some music. She looks straight ahead, then back at me.
Do I say hi? Do I smile? Do people strike up conversations on the subway-
A tap on my shoulder.
Another woman. Even more gorgeous than the one in front of me. She's been sitting next to me the whole time and I hadn't noticed. She asks:
Her - "Excuse me, what was the last station?"
I know this, because as I exchanged glances with the woman in front of me, we passed by W4th Street.
Me - "West 4th."
I look down at her left hand. No ring.
I glance at the girl in front of me. She's eating pistachios now. Sloppily. Greedily. Licking her fingers after breaking each shell.
I turn back to the girl next to me.
Her - "Oh no! I missed it!"
Her English is good, but she's not from around here. South America, maybe.
Me - "Where are you trying to go?"
Her - "59th st. East Side."
She can get off at the next 3 stops and transfer to the train she needs. I try to tell her this, but she panics. Her energy makes me more nervous, and I stumble in my speech as the train pulls into 14th Street.
Is this some serendipitous moment that I should seize?
I look to the woman across from me. She's thumb-deep in pistachio salt residue.
The lost woman stands up and walks out the door. Wandering. Looking for a sign to let her know that she's going the right way.
I sit there, trying to wave and get her attention, but she panics and doesn't get back on. The sliding doors close. We lock eyes for a brief moment, and I stupidly give her a thumbs-up to let her know that she's in the right place.
I beat myself up, knowing that I could have lied and said she could only transfer at 50th, where I was getting off. I could have had another five minutes. I could have asked her to have coffee with me. Could have been something meaningful. Or would it have been? Maybe I misinterpreted the intentions of a woman who was simply lost and looking for directions? She could have asked anyone on the train, anyone at all, but she chose to tap my shoulder, have me take out my earbuds to ask me. Or maybe she asked me because, oh I don't know, I was sitting right the fuck next to her?!
I glance at old pistachio-fingers in front of me, packing up her newspaper and bag of nuts, getting ready to exit at 34th St Penn Station.
She locks eyes with me again. This time she smiles. I maintain.
Do I say hi? How do people do this shit? Do people actually do this? Do people meet people on the subway? Am I a creep if I say hi? Am I a creep if I ask for her number? What's the worst-case scenario? She maces me? That would suck. I've never been maced. That's a good thing. I've never taken a picture of my penis. Also a good thing.
Train rolls into 34th St Penn Station. She gets up and leaves right away. Quickly. She's in a hurry. She disappears into the sea of mass-transit commuters and lost tourists. I am bailed out.
I click to the next song on my Spotify playlist. Sometime Around Midnight by The Airborne Toxic Event. One of my favorite songs. Fitting.
I was kidding myself. I'll never, in a million years, get the nerve to ask a woman for her number on the subway. I'll create scenarios in my brian, artificial futures and different lives flashing by and vanishing just as quickly. None of which will ever some to fruition.
The Washington Heights-bound C train stops at 50th. I exit and climb up the steps, staring at my phone and eagerly awaiting the top bar to go from "No Service" to "Verizon LTE". I open tinder, swipe a few times. Two new matches. Katie and Amber. Amber is cute. Katie looks like a close friend's identical twin. Block Katie. Enter TD Bank, fill out deposit slip, wait on line. Open Hinge. New batch of matches. Click the "hearts" on ever picture. Three new matches. Doreen, Ashley, Madison. Peruse their profiles. Message Ashley, ask her how her hump day is going. Open OkCupid. Two new visitors. Meg2213 visited me. She's cute. I click "like."
The bank teller calls me over. She's attractive and sweet. I see her three or four times per week. Her claddagh ring points outward on her right hand. I notice this every day, yet never act upon it. She hands me my receipt, I thank her and leave.
Open OkCupid again to see if Meg2213 "likes" me back. Nothing. I walk to work. Change into my uniform. Ten minutes to kill. I swipe on Tinder some more. No matches. I stare at my phone, waiting for a response. Nothing. Open Facebook, no new notifications. Open Twitter, no new notifications. Open OkCupid again, no new notifications. Open Hinge, no new notifications.