photo: The Ballerina Project
By Ben Franklin Schumpeter VIII
After many years of watching bits of "The Notebook" movie, I have finally managed to see it all. The ending was too sentimental. How many couples die of a broken heart at the same time? Be that as it may, the movie inspired this little story, maybe as a counterpoint to all that sentimentality.
She stood on the train platform patiently waiting for him to arrive. She had been doing this every morning for the last four years, ten months, three weeks, and four days.
It started by accident. On that day, she arrived early at the platform and waited in her usual spot, and she chanced to see him. She had chosen a special standing spot on the train platform, one that would make it easy for her to exit at her stop. New Yorkers are like that, always working on ways to quickly get in and out of the train. She stood ten feet to the left of the Canandaigua Station sign. The sign reminded her that the Indians were here first and that she was now a part of Indian history.
She had been leaving early for work. She particularly like her latest project, a study of the voting habits of middle age women, and was eager to get started each day. She saw him as she entered the train car. She did not think of him much except that he was handsome and well dressed. He wore a beautiful grey suit cut close Mad Men style. She liked that it showed his slim fit body. He had the look of an actor, handsome and rugged, and she was sure that she had seen him in a movie at one time. An unexpected side effect of leaving early for work was that she saw him in the mornings. Not every time, mind you, but enough so that he came to register in her mind and became unique from all the anonymous passengers she saw on her train.
She enjoyed seeing him. It was a cheery start to her day to see this handsome man. She did not know why she found him attractive. Perhaps it was the way she imagined his beard would tickle if she were to kiss him. Perhaps it was the way she imagined his body would feel if she were to hug him. Perhaps it was the way she imagined how his hair would fall if she were to muss it. Perhaps it was the way she imagined he would laugh if she were to tell him her favorite joke. All she could say was that he captivated her and that was that.
She decided that she wanted to start every day with a view of him. She needed to work out his travel pattern. First, she arrived early at the train station. She would then stand in her spot and wait for the train to come. As each train arrived, she looked in to see if he was there. If not, she let the train pass and waited for the next one. When she saw him, she entered the train. On the train, she noted where he stood so she could be close to him or at least within easy viewing distance. She would just look at him for the duration of her trip. She left the train at her stop and he went on to a further stop. She never knew where he left the train and to follow him onwards seemed obsessive and creepy.
She continued this way week after week until his travel pattern emerged and she could, with reasonable accuracy, be assured that she would meet his train. Then, she started to plan her trip to work to match his travel times. She would leave her home ten minutes early to just to be sure that if he chanced to be one train early, she would be there when he arrived. On the days when she did not see him, she forced herself into her train for work instead of following her desire to remain on the platform waiting and hoping for him to appear.
Some days, when she felt adventurous, she stood next to him. She never spoke to him no matter how often she did stand next to him. She did not know what to say to him. As friendly as she was, she did not know how to break the ice. It was an odd thing to her that she could be tongue-tied and feel intimidated by this man. She could not think of any reason for this and as far as she could tell, he posed no threat to her safety. Occasionally, as she stood next to him, the urge would rise up in her to say "Hello". And each time, her breathing shallowed and sped up while weird wobblies came to her stomach. She just stood there stuck on the consequences of such a simple word as "Hello".
"Hello" was such a treacherous word. "Hello" was a risky chance to learn that he did not have a beautiful personality. Then, his beauty would be destroyed. His handsomeness needed to be attached to a beautiful personality. "Hello" was a risky chance to learn that he was not compatible to her own personality. Knowing that he was on the wrong side of these truths would have destroyed him for her and he would have returned to the pack of anonymous passengers on her train.
She did wonder if he noticed her. She stood next to him often enough for him to have noticed her but he never spoke. She did chuckle once at the idea that perhaps, and this was the deepest thought she ever gave to her situation, just maybe, she intimidated him too.
So, every morning for the next five years, she just looked at him, enjoying him as he existed in front of her: his handsomeness, his sartorial magnificence, his elegant and graceful movements and the hints of personality that flickered across his face.
Suddenly, he was gone. She did not see him at all for three weeks. She felt the lack of him in her life and the disruption to her feelings. Every morning, she would leave her home in hopes that he had returned but it was not to be. She trudged through her days, distracted and impatient, snapping at her colleagues, but always ending her evenings in rising hope for the next morning. Had she fallen in love with a stranger? Was that possible? How can this happen with a man she didn't know, never spoke to, knew nothing of his personality or of his likes? Had she foolishly let her imagination run away with her? Was that the danger she fell into unawares, the trap that catches women like herself? Love, after all, must go somewhere.
After three months of waiting on the platform and not seeing him, she resigned herself that he was gone forever. She always knew that this was possible. Events happened in people lives and some event happened to him. She accepted that the hand of fate had moved against her. It was inevitable. They were still strangers and there was no connection between them to keep them together.
She changed her way of traveling to work. She returned to catching a train that minimized her travel time. A month later, as she settled into her new routine, a shock came to her. She saw him again. He was getting off her train two stops before hers. He had changed jobs and now took this train.
He looked just as fine to her as he did on the first day she saw him five years ago. He was still handsome and he still wore those beautiful suits. She still could not comprehend loving a stranger but it was only on seeing him again that the ache of having missed him so much overcame her. She held on hard to the bar by the door and took several long slow breaths. Her cheeks warmed and she nearly smiled at him.
She moved to stand next to him. She desperately wanted to say "Hello" and to not let him get away from her again. But, she said nothing. When he got off the train, she immediately set to working out his travel pattern - the train he was on, which stop he got off, and the time she would have to leave her home to be on the station platform to wait for him.