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Nate was running toward the platform where he thought he would meet the right subway line and would get him to his destination. As soon as he reached the train’s doors they were closing and Nate didn’t want to take the risk being stuck in-between the doors. He had seen it happen to others and decided that it wasn’t his fate to be caught. It looked liked it hurt.
“Hopefully,” Nate thought, “there will be another one coming in five minutes and not in one hour.” One time Nate had to wait forty minutes for another one to come. He was not happy.
He had to meet his anatomy professor because Nate missed a few classes. Someone in the family was getting married in Boston and Nate missed four days of important classes. He was in his first year of NYU’s prestigious medical school and wanted to make sure that he got all of his work completed. Nate caught up with all his other classes through friends but he really didn’t know anyone in anatomy. So Nate had to make the trip to Midtown, where his professor lived, in order to find out what he missed. He called his professor to see if he could just tell Nate the information but he wanted Nate to come to him.
Nate wasn’t a city boy, and was still getting use to using public transportation and not a car. He lived seventeen years on Long Island in a nice suburb called Syosset and then decided to go to Brown University. When he was younger, he use to go into the city with his parents all the time but it was a transition from the small city of Providence to New York City again took time.
He sat down on the subway bench, even though it looked like the most unsanitary bench Nate had ever seen. The whole subway smelled like pee and vomit. He thought the homeless man was following him but that could have just been his paranoia kicking in. Five minutes later he looked at his Blackberry only to find a text from his good friend and lab partner, Maria.
Where are you??? We need to work on that lab ASAP!! Call me!
Nate started grinning at his phone. He and Maria had been friends since middle school and now they were trusted to work with dangerous chemicals. What a match.
Don’t Worry. We’ll work on it next week. I can’t come over now. Need to go to Stevens for the work I missed because of that wedding.
Nate clicked the “send” button and as he put his Blackberry back in his pocket he heard a voice that he had not heard in years.
“Nate Rajandra Patel!! Is that you?”
It was a breath of fresh air to hear. The way she said “Rajandra” with a little bit of uncertainty of the pronunciation but excitement all at the same time.
“Kayla,” he looked up and he was correct it was her: Kayla Burr. Nate took a good look at her and he swore that she almost looked the same. She was wearing blue jeans, a t-shirt and pink scarf was wrapped around her neck. Nate remembered she always had this thing for scarves. “They wear them all the time in London, no matter what season. Those Brits are just like me.” Kayla told him once.
“It’s great seeing you,” Kayla gave him a hug. At first, Nate felt awkward during the hug but gave in and it felt less strange. “It’s been forever,” Kayla sat down next to him. “I’m waiting for the same line. I couldn’t wake up this morning. It’s so unlike me.”
“I’m glad you missed it,” Nate blurted out. He felt like an idiot later for saying it in that way. Her auburn hair was still long and her olive skin was as clear and perfect as it was when she was a teenager. “So you’re living in New York City then?” He asked just to clarify.
“Yes, I’m living in The Village. It’s so amazing there. I could only imagine what it was like the 60s. Well enough about that. You must be in medical school now right?” Nate nodded. “Where?”
“NYU,” Nate answered.
“I knew it,” she said grinning. “I always knew you would go there one way or another. A part of me still wished that I got accepted there. It was the only college that didn’t. How is it there?”
“Lots of work,” Nate replied. “But it’s fun to be back in the city. What are you doing now?”
“I’m living my dream,” Kayla started. “I’m performing all over the place. I just found out a few days ago that I got an audition to be in the New York Philharmonic. Imagine me, the harpist for one of the best orchestras in the world,” Kayla had the biggest smiled on her face and jumped a little when she said “world.” She continued to say, “I have the audition in three weeks. It’s so exciting,”
“Hey Nate,” Kayla said to him one day as she walked into the newspaper room. It really wasn’t a room. It was more like a closet. Nate was editing articles that were just sent to him for almost two periods so he was glad to see Kayla to take his eyes away from the computer.
“Hey,” he said happily. “How was your day?” He closed the editing page, which was about a recent school function.
“It was good,” she said. “I can’t believe it tomorrow is my Purchase audition. I’m so nervous,” Kayla sat on one of the chairs next to him.
“You’ll be great,” Nate encouraged her but she still looked so anxious. She got off the chair and walked around the little space that was there.
“I’m just afraid of—’’ Kayla cut herself off and continued with “Don’t tell anyone alright but I’m afraid of failure. I’m scared about my future. What if I don’t make it to Lincoln Center and I have to live in a cardboard box?” Her hands began to shake and she dropped her purse.
“You aren’t going to live in a box Kayla. You’re very talented,” Nate said attempting to calm her nerves.
“Thanks,” she smiled at him. “I needed to hear that,” she bent down to pick up her handbag and while she was doing this the door opened.
“Hey Nate,” the girl who walked in said, her name was Lindsey. She looked down and saw Kayla. “Hey Kayla, I didn’t see you there.”
“Oh I just dropped something,” she said awkwardly and picked up a pen from the floor. “Found it.”
“Well ok then,” Lindsey said. “You both seem busy,”
“We aren’t,” Nate and Kayla said at once.
“It doesn’t matter,” Lindsey walked out and was about to close the door.
“You don’t have to close it,” Kayla said. “The door that is. Keep it open,”
“I just thought—’’ Lindsey cut herself off. “You wanted privacy and the door was closed before and all.” She ended up closing the door and left.
Nate and Kayla exchanged a look to total bewilderment. “What was that about?” Nate asked.
“Some people are crazy!” Kayla exclaimed. “Seriously, what did Lindsey think we were doing in here?” Kayla paused because it seemed that Nate was going to answer her question. “ On second thought, don’t answer that question Nate,”
“That sounds exciting,” Nate said. Finally the subway arrived and the two of them went on together. Kayla immediately went over to the subway map.
“Ok,” she said. “If I’m right I have to go off on stop four and you are stop five. I’m still getting use to this subway thing too.” The two of them found seats together.
“Where do you have to be?” Nate asked her as Kayla was quickly checking her cell phone for test messages.
“Oh I’m meeting up with a friend. You remember my best friend Julie in high school. We meet up twice a month in the city and either eat or go to a show,” Kayla explained. “She’s awesome.”
“That’s amazing that you two are still best friends,” Nate said. “That’s a long time.”
“Yeah,” Kayla said. “That’s true. I’m very lucky.”
“You know,” Nate suddenly realized. “We weren’t this lucky the first time we rode the subway.”
The Newspaper and Literary Magazine took a trip into the city for a school publications convention when Nate and Kayla were in their senior year in High School. To get to their destination, the students took the Long Island railroad and the dreaded and mysterious subway. Getting there, Nate didn’t think the journey wasn’t so bad. On the way back to school was another story.
“Sorry Nate,” Kayla said as she bumped into him from behind. “It’s too crowded in here!” Kayla grabbed on to the subway pole for dear life. She turned around quickly to look at him.
“Yeah I know and--’’ OOMPH Nate bumped into her. He was really embarrassed since he ended up touching Kayla’s chest. “I’m so sorry,” he added and he also grabbed onto the dirty pole.
“I hate the subway,” Kayla said and gave Nate hope that Kayla didn’t notice that he touched her.
“Yeah me too,” Nat agreed quickly. They were still facing each other and Kayla was still a little wobbly and only bumped into Nate lightly on the shoulder whenever the train made a short stop.
“We’re SO suburban!” Kayla said, as she tried to maintain her balance.
“Yeah, I guess we’ll always be,” Nate said, has he held on tightly for a very jerky short stop.
“Yes that’s true and—’’ Kayla’s hands slipped off the pole. She was about to go face down but caught Nate’s arm instead, which prevented the fall from being dangerous. Kayla was on her knees and got up by grabbing Nate’s hand.
She looked at his hand for a moment. Nate looked at hers too but didn’t say anything. Kayla’s face became all red and Nate didn’t want to tell her to stop holding onto him.
Nate thought he heard her mutter “Sorry, I’m such a klutz,” and then brushed her hands off her jeans.
“Oh yeah!” Kayla said. “That was funny and to think that now we use the subway all the time.” She looked at the map once more. “Only one more stop for me.”
“Hey you know what. Let’s meet up tomorrow,” Nate said randomly. “We’ll try and catch up more.”
“That sounds great!” Kayla said enthusiastically. “Where?”
Nate told her the address of his apartment. “Right next to my building there’s a Starbucks. I know you use to love those chocolate chip frapachinnos.”
Kayla stood up waiting for the train to stop.
“I can’t believe you remember that!” Kayla held on tightly to her bag. “So I’ll see you at 2 o’clock then?”
“Yeah that sounds like a good time,” Nate replied.
“See you then,” she gave him a quick hug and walked off the train.
Nate watched her walk away from the train and up to the stairs for as long as he could. He was forced to stop looking because the train was moving again and his stop was next. He all of a sudden felt like he was sixteen years old and was so happy to see Kayla again.
“What happened,” Nate thought. “We use to be so close. What went wrong? Maybe tomorrow will change everything,” Nate thought hopefully. “Wait, no I can’t. Stop thinking of her like that!” Nate realized this was his stop and walked up out of the smelly subway.
It was October and it was very windy outside. He needed Kayla’s scarf when he faced the wind going into his face. He walked for about a block and his phone started vibrating.
Hey honey I’m visiting my parents for the weekend. Do you want to come?
Nate was thankful for his girlfriend’s text or otherwise he would have kept planning on what he would say to Kayla tomorrow and other things guys worry about when they are going on a date. “It’s not a date!” Nate thought. Nate texted her back quickly and sent:
Sorry but I still have so much work to do. When are you coming back?
A few seconds later Nate got the text:
Tuesday. I’ll see you then.
“I have a girlfriend, I have a girlfriend,” Nate kept saying to himself. “I can’t think of Kayla in that way anymore.” It was a fact now to Nate and had to believe it and fight off whatever feelings he might experience tomorrow. He was ready, or at least that’s what he thought.
If only he caught that first train.