“He’s cute,” I thought and smiled in spite of myself. I couldn’t help it.
“You noticed a cute guy!” I patted myself on the back, “I’m so proud of you! This is a great step! Maybe now that the weather has chilled and the cold (and cuddle) season is upon us, you’re ready to come out of dating hibernation!”
We stood at the cross walk together, this stranger and I. Side by side, I basked in the vague flutters of attractions that have long lain dormant while he remained completely unaware of my existence. I rather liked it that way. So far, so safe.
He turned his head to survey the traffic and I noticed something tucked behind his ear. I barely managed to stop myself from flinching.
“Ugh, a cigarette! Gross!” Then I found myself smiling again as I realized, “Wouldn’t it be great if all smokers kept cigarettes behind their ears? A badge announcing this dirty habit to all the world? Instant turn off.”
The light changed and I headed toward the subway on the opposite corner. As did the smoker. As did nearly everyone crossing the street. As he stood directly in front of me amid the pack of people rushing down the narrow subway stairs, I noticed the object tucked behind his ear was not in fact a cigarette. It was a pen.
Attraction resurfaced along with the twinkle of intrigue. Who puts pens behind their ears? Is he even aware it’s there? He has the look of a bookish, absentminded romantic, and since I’m too afraid to talk to him, that is how he shall always remain, frozen in my memory.
Maybe he’s a writer. Maybe he always tucks a pen behind his ear so it’s assured to be accessible. Maybe he’s a poet who must scribble lightning bolts of inspiration when ever and where ever they strike. Maybe he’s a playwright writing a one act that takes place in a subway car, starring two shy strangers.
Forget the reality. The butt of the pen featured the iconic design of the American flag. A pen likely picked up gratis. He probably just went to the bank, hurriedly endorsed several checks. No, I shove those sane thoughts from my mind. He’s an architect designing a modern town house for the editor in chief of The New Yorker!
I stood next to him on the crowded subway, grasping the pole and projecting fantasy after fantasy on this poor, unassuming man who couldn’t have been more oblivious. How easy it would be to start a conversation, the pen a perfect lead in. But I didn’t want him to be real, with flaws and hopes, heartbeats and heartaches. I’m not ready for a real one yet.
All I want from men right now is to use them- as a fun game to play on the subway. Is that wrong?
These are the fantasies of a hopeless romantic. This is how yours truly spends her train rides objectifying gentlemen.