The uptown IRT was unusually empty for this time of day, and I had no difficulty finding a seat. Two other passengers boarded at the same time that I did, but they both disappeared into the corner seats reserved for the handicapped. I found an available spot in the middle of the car that was directly in front of a white-haired man, who had his head buried behind the Wall Street Journal. As I was about to lower myself onto the slippery fibre-glass seats, the train pulled off and gravity pushed me down with very little finesse.
The new intrusions into the once empty space and my whispered “damn,” caused the man to look up at me. Our eyes met briefly, but I could feel the smile behind his eyes though he did not wear it on his face. Once settled, I pulled out the latest John Grisham book and started to read from my dog-eared page. The man across from me had also returned to his newspaper article but, I could still sense his thoughts on me.
Self-consciously, I drew one leg over the other and crossed it at the knee like I had seen celebrity talk show guests do. My legs were bare and smooth, and my high heels called more attention to their length and firmness. I ran my sweaty palms down the charcoal grey pencil skirt I wore which accentuated my stomach and rounded thighs. One red toenail peeked out from my peekaboo pumps, and I was glad to see that my pedicure was still in place.
All New York City subways are noisy and bumpy, and the IRT was no exception. Occasionally the train jolted sending me leaning to my left or right, which in turn caused me to unwrap my legs and plant them flat for balance. Without making eye contact, I could feel the man’s averted eyes peering into the dark triangle between my skirt and my thighs. Like laser beams, his eyes scanned my legs as I slowly crossed and uncrossed them; sliding one over the other. The man’s attention set off an electrical impulse in my body, and quickly my breasts began to swell beneath my white silk shirt. I arched my back just slightly so that the top of my decolletage was more pronounced.
On page 53 in my book, Grisham was narrating a love scene, and for a second I closed my eyes and imagined it was me and this man. The man in front of me looked like a Wall Street executive, and I figured he was most likely a broker of some sort. Was it stocks? Bonds? Logistics? I didn’t know, and yet I felt I knew him. His square fingernails had been clipped and buffed to a pleasing shine. He had blue eyes and short-cropped white hair with an extremely handsome youthful face, that reminded me of Anderson Cooper. I wondered if he was gay, but then I looked down at his left hand and saw his wedding band. A simple gold band.
The wedding ring threw me, and I pulled myself together feeling guilty for flirting with a married man, but I couldn’t help it as his sneaky glances energised me. Twice we made direct eye contact; neither smiling but both caught in rapt attention. Twice we were drawn back to our reading material. I wondered what he was reading as he never once turned a page. And what good was the Wall Street Journal in the evening anyway? Twice I had to reread page 53; the same love scene, completely unaware my tongue had begun to lick my upper lip as my mind found escape in the erotic scene.
This last time, my eyes were drawn to the edge of the newspaper that buckled on his lap. I tilted my head slightly trying to read the text from bottom to top like I was reading Hebrew or Sanskrit. Eventually, our eyes met over the top of the newspaper. This time we held the gaze, even as a nervous hand went up to push my hair behind my ear. Without breaking the magnetic gaze, I became aware that the bottom of his newspaper moved as of its own volition, and a nervous smile crossed my lips. He eventually dragged his eyes away and coughed from somewhere behind the newspaper.
All too soon, the loudspeaker interrupted our moment, and the conductor began announcing the connecting trains. I watched in dismay as he gathered his things; a briefcase that I hadn’t noticed and a small shopping bag. Right then, I had the wildest urge to get off the train with him. I wanted to ask him his name. I wanted to invite him for a drink. I wanted to have dinner and go back to his apartment. I wanted to kiss him and smell him. I wanted to do what the girl in the Grisham story did to the young lawyer that she was in love with. And yet I knew, I would never approach him. He was married, and I didn’t cross that line, and I hoped neither did he.
The conductor had announced his stop, and so I watched as he dragged himself up at the same time the train pulled into the station. His clothes looked expensive, and he was immaculately groomed, appearing as if he had just left home. Standing closer now, I could see that he was much younger than his white hair, not even forty, but he exuded confidence and success. I felt I would have fallen in love with him if he had driven with me all the way to East Harlem. There was a loud swoosh as the conductor engaged the hydraulic brake. The man came towards me with his eyes boring into mine. Now, at this last moment, he did nothing to hide his attraction, allowing his eyes to completely wash over me. Reaching for the nearest pole, I heard as his wedding band clanked against the cold metal and like a shield it rested between the two of us. where I couldn’t help but fix my eyes on it.
Suddenly the doors slid opened and in a hurried instant his blue eyes sought mine. The handsome stranger smiled one last time, before slipping his business card into my hand. I had to take it. I wanted to touch him and yet I felt guilty and disappointed. I had wanted him to be perfect. I had wanted to believe that not all men cheat, and I was determined never to call him. The door closed and he was gone. I was no longer interested in reading, so I slipped the card between page 53 and 54, and just as I was about to close the book I noticed he had written on it. On the back of the card, he had written, “God you’re lovely.” On the front, he had crossed out everything but his first name, under which he had written, ” but I’m married.”
Copyright © 2014 Susan M. Wolfe
08-04-2014, On The Uptown IRT~All Rights Reserved