He had been one of her constants. They’d met down at the opposite end of the platform, waiting for that 7:20 train. He always wore a long-sleeved dress shirt, even in those warmer months, and carried a dark brown, leather satchel. Sometimes he had coffee, sometimes not. Sometimes he wore a tie — plain and unpretentious — but often he went without. His posture gave the impression of confidence and self-assuredness, but there was something relaxed and casual about him. But these weren’t what caught her attention, what drew her to him.
He was always reading. His eyes were always roving back and forth across page after page of classic and contemporary literature, glancing up only as the train approached. He would close his book and look about him, as if awaking from a dream, only long enough to board the train and take a seat. She could not decide if his eyes were green or grey — probably a vacillating mixture of both — but there was something in them that was soft, gentle, inviting, and they drew her in.
She, herself, always carried a book with her, but often preferred to watch the world around her, as constant as it was, and only read at her office cubicle during lunch breaks, or in bed at night. That summer, she was new — to the office, and to the city — and she was caught somewhere closer to fear than daring. She did not seek out the company of others.
Eventually, she could not bear the sight of him — she could not bear the yearning that he incited — but, rather than look away or move to another part of the platform, which would have been the logical thing to do, she pulled out her own book and turned her attention to its pages. She lost herself in other worlds and, more than once, almost missed that 7:20 train because she did not resurface in time.
One such morning, a Thursday at the end of summer, she arrived early at the station. Long before any of her constants had taken their seats on the benches that lined the platform, she was immersed in her novel. All light and sound, and time itself became immaterial.
Then, suddenly, she felt the warm touch of a hand on her shoulder. She flinched, and the hand was gone. She looked up. It was him.
She thought he’d said something: his lips moved. She stuttered out an apology, feeling as if everything were underwater. He smiled — a smile of effortless charisma — and gestured to the approaching train. He had noticed yesterday, as he took his seat on the train, that she hadn’t boarded; she had noticed too late, as the train closed its doors, readying to depart. She felt her face flush — partly from embarrassment, partly from the thought that he’d noticed her at all.
Later, alone, she would replay that moment — his words, his voice, his smile — over and over in her mind. And always those eyes that made her heart flutter. If they were captivating from afar, they were now all-consuming.
After that Thursday morning, he stopped reading. She continued to arrive early at the station. They started talking. From when they met at the station until she disembarked (he alighted at a stop further along), they talked, laughed and exchanged knowing glances.
Eventually, they met outside of the confines of the cement platform and the steel carriages. They ate together, walked together, and laughed together. They held hands. He held her and brought her closer. They shared stories, memories and dreams. The green of his eyes grew more intense, and she felt as if she were falling upwards into an endless canopy.
Her spirit was reignited. She felt as if her soul was lighter and yet full to bursting. She called home, and, in hushed conversations, told old friends of this man who made her feel like she could love this city just because he was in it.
But these feelings did not last very long.
Her mind grew suspicious. The anxiety inside her that feared all good things found its voice. At first, it was a whisper, a hiss. The voice questioned everything about him — his intentions, his honesty, his faithfulness. The fear became a quivering crescendo. She questioned herself and her own worthiness, and the very idea of reality.
She pulled away from him. Dazed and confused, yet also resigned to this end, he watched her leave. She resurfaced to where she could hear waves crashing against the shore, and where she could hear the shrill cry of seabirds. She breathed in deep lungfuls of air.
She could never love someone who was perfect.