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I wasn’t all that fond of weekdays. I wasn't much for waking up ridiculously early. Nor was I a fan of commuting into school everyday (mostly because I had to wake up early to do it). School was, if possible, even less exciting than the two of them put together. But even they don't compare to the lowest of low points, the one thing that makes me dread every single weekday afternoon: the subway ride home.
No one seems to see my reasoning. Everyone (albeit, not many people) that I've told this to has pretty much said the same thing. "Really, why don't you like it? Wouldn't you be glad to be getting home?”
They just don't get it. But then again, I wouldn't expect them to. No one seems to see it…the things that suck about the ride home, I mean. Where as the morning commute is filled to the brim with energy and excitement and frustrated-looking people in business suits, there just isn't anything worth mentioning on the afternoon. The eco-friendly stock brokers and artsy college students don't take the two o'clock train. And without them, my brain goes from exhausted-but-intrigued, to brain-mush that just may end up leaking out of my ears. The lack of visual stimulation on the afternoon train is nothing short of brutal.
Until she showed up, that is.
She, in this case, happened to appear on an afternoon indistinguishable from any other afternoon (that could just be the brain-mush, though). I stepped on, and upon looking around, found that the only other occupant in my car was an old man, trench coat clad, and fast asleep. Excitement was practically spewing out of my ears. Nope, never mind. That was brain-mush. Crushed, liquefied, pureed…
I wasn’t quite sure how long I sat in the silence, rattling off the different settings one can find on your average blender. It couldn’t have been all that long though, because I hadn’t even made it through all the settings, before the train pulled to a stop and the sliding automatic doors slowly opened.
Out of habit, I glanced up at the digital sign that displayed the stop. I didn’t expect to get off now. I mean, I would have to cycle through the blender settings at least thirty times before I had even a prayer of getting off…maybe alphabetize them to.
I was so wrapped up in figuring out whether “diced” was a setting, that I didn’t pay too much attention to the few people who came on. No one interesting ever got on at this stop anyway. So instead of looking toward the door, I began organizing the list, muttering the terms under my breath.
I only got as far as “blended” when a loud, clear voice interrupted my train of thought.
“Watcha doin’?” the high-pitched, sing-song voice called.
The sudden interruption caught me off guard, and I jumped backward, my bag keeping my back from slamming into one of the floor-to-ceiling rails. Recovering my balance, I spun my head around, looking for the owner of the voice.
I didn’t have to look very far. Directly in front of me, violating my personal bubble, was a girl, grinning widely as she waited for my response.
She took my silence for temporary deafness, and after a moment of silence, as I struggled to remember what her question had been in the first place, she repeated herself, this time much louder.
“Oh…nothing,” I muttered quickly, inching slowly backward so as to reclaim my personal space.
“You were doing something. You kept saying ‘blended.’”
“Oh…yeah, that was…I was…thinking about dinner.”
“You blend your dinner?” she asked, staring at me wide eyed. It occurred to me how stupid it must have sounded, and I struggled to come up with a logical explanation. While I wrestled with possible things to say, I caught a glance of her argyle socks and gladiator high heels, which only succeeded to distract me. Thankfully, she didn’t seem to need a response. “That’s cool. I’ve never blended my dinner before…or my lunch…nor breakfast, for that matter. I don’t remember the last time I used a blender, but I think that even when I did I probably just used fruit…I like fruit, fruit’s good...do you like fruit? I like strawberries, and apples, and oranges”—
“Oranges are…nice.” I cut in awkwardly, trying to answer the question. I don’t think she would have noticed if I hadn’t though.
“Oranges are awesome!” she replied, the speed of her voice gaining momentum at an unheard of pace. “I like anything with oranges…orange juice, orange sherbet, orange-aid, even orange hair dyes! Whatkindaorangethingsdoyoulike?” The last question poured out of her mouth in one breath, all a single syllable.
“Just…oranges,” I said slowly. I didn’t really have much of an opinion about oranges.
Again, this didn’t seem to faze her in the slightest. “‘Just oranges’ are cool too…do you like ‘just pears’ and ‘just grapes’ as well? I like ‘just kumquats,’ and ‘just peaches’ and ‘just lemons,’ and ‘just’”—
“Well, that’s cool too.”
We were both quiet for a moment. She looked to be in deep thought, swaying back and forth on her toes, her eyes fixed on the floor. Likewise, I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to the argyle sock-clad girl, and instead chose to keep my eyes locked on the floor.
The silence wasn’t all that long.
“Where’d you come from?” she suddenly asked, her eyes snapping up. I sensed her looking at me, and turned up my eyes as well. Finding it too uncomfortable to meet her eyes, I instead settled for staring at her hands.
“Err…school.” It sounded more like a question than an answer, but at this point, I doubted she’d even notice. I turned out to be right on that account.
“Me to!” she shouted, as if it were a highly unlikely miracle that two people could end up on a subway together, both getting out of school. “I actually made it on time today, normally I don’t. Hey, where are you going?”
“Err…” Now normally, if a complete, and rather strange, stranger asked me where I was going, I wouldn’t answer. Knowing my luck, the person would happen to be some axe-wielding zombie trying to get me alone. Maybe it was her lack of axe, or her awesome socks, but for some, unexplainable reason, I violated my principle, and told her. “I’m going home,” I said confidently, meeting her eyes as I said this. Suddenly feeling brave, I even added a, “what about you?”
The words had barely escaped my lips when the subway car pulled to a sudden stop, nearly sending me flying. As I struggled to regain my balance, she began to speak, her voice once again speeding up. “Wait, this is my stop. Gotta go. See ya!”
I heard the old sliding doors shake open slowly, followed by footsteps accentuated by the clack of heels. I wanted to shout at her to stop and wait, but I still had yet to pull myself to my feet, my oversized bag making the task terribly difficult.
As I staggered to my feet, I caught a brief glimpse of the crack between the doors, before it clicked shut with an air of finality. She had left, and I was alone once more.
For the rest of the ride home, I couldn’t shake the image of her from my mind. Her knee-high argyles, her heels, and her goofy, innocent smile seemed to be permanent fixtures in my head. Her…her…
My stop arrived, and as I stepped out of the artificial light, and into the dark underground station, it occurred to me that I hadn’t even asked for her name.