I didn’t know what I was getting into on that fateful day that I stepped on the train at DeKalb. I was on my way to meet a friend for dinner in Queens, but as our eyes met briefly, I knew I’d never make it.
I sat across from you. Hoping you’d come sit by me, but you didn’t. We looked at each other several times. I smiled, but when you didn’t smile back, I looked away.
Once, I caught you staring off in thought, and I wondered if you were thinking about what you’d say to me. I fantasized about running my fingers through your slightly disheveled hair, but when you looked up, I turned away, embarrassed at being caught staring.
I held up the cover of my book hoping that you’d read the title and comment on it, but you didn’t. I sat there, staring at the pages hoping you’d say something, but still, you said nothing.
I decided I’d stay on the train until we reached your stop. Maybe then you’d invite me for a drink or ask for my number, but when we reached the end of the line, you stayed on and still said nothing. Not wanting to look foolish, I held up my book again, as if to indicate that it was the reason I’d missed my stop.
So we both stayed on. You and me. And as the train passed through Astoria, over the East River, through SoHo and down to Coney Island, the pages in the book about Lyndon Johnson, began to tell a new story.
The letters on the page rearranged themselves to tell the story of us—a young couple who met on the Deklab stop on the Q train. It was an instant connection. In one simple locking of the eyes we had exchanged a lifetime of words and knew we were destined to share a lifetime of experiences.
You never made it home that night, and I never met my friend for dinner. Instead, we sat on the train talking and laughing in a way that only soul mates do. When we reached the end of the line, you invited me to dinner. That was the end of life as we knew it. For the next sixty years, we were inseparable.
We dated for a year before getting married. We started a family—two rambunctious boys and one clever girl. We moved into a small house in Astoria, insisting on living near the Q train—a daily reminder of the happenstance that brought us together.
Once, I looked up from my book and realized I was still sitting on the train. You were sitting across from me in those same maroon pants and that blue-stripped t-shirt. We locked eyes, but still said nothing.
I glanced at the newspaper next to me. It was dated twenty years later. Twenty years had passed and still you had said nothing. A tear slid down my face, and I returned to the story of what could’ve been.
We watched our children grow. When they started their own families, we traveled the globe. We walked along China’s Great Wall, hiked the Kenyan mountains, slid down the Alaskan glaciers, and explored the pyramids of Egypt. You had become an author, and I had become a journalist, each of us finding inspiration in our travels with each other.
Then the time came when we had to come home. Our bodies creaked and shook with the sigh of old bones. Slowly, we climbed on the Q train for our final ride, sitting across from each other the way we had on that faithful day that our lives changed. Our eyes once again locked, exchanging a lifetime of conversations followed by our final good-byes as our bodies slowly faded away into a memory. Our story had ended.
I looked up as I closed the book of our life and saw that both of us were still sitting on the train. Sixty years later, a quiet lifetime had passed between two permanent fixtures on a train who spoke only with their eyes. And just as our lives had ended in the book, so had our time on the train.
Slowly, I stood up. My my muscles struggled to awaken after a lifetime of sitting. I stepped off the train at Queensboro Plaza, whispering a final goodbye with my eyes and hoping you’d follow. But you didn’t.