the only empty seat on the train was next to him, and i was too tired not to sit there. i'd seen him before. i liked the cut of his hair at the back of his neck—clean and sharp. his eyes hooded and heavy, but bright under there, like he was noticing me those times i saw him around the city. drinking coffee, or at the bar, or just passing him on the corner of 9th street. on the train, he sat reading, hunched over his book, so i thought i might go unnoticed. i closed my eyes. but then i started looking over his shoulder at the page, attracted to words like a dog finding the scent of food—or whatever it is they find when they nose the corners of buildings and garbage cans and gutters, lifting their heads, sniffing. i tried to stop looking. his body leaned in my way, so there i was with his neck and the back of his ear and his big, clean hand on the page. i could see the clean cut of each hair over his ear, the angle of the blade's edge. and his collar. and his jacket. and the little holes worn in the back of his jacket, which i wanted to work my fingers into. this happens to me sometimes on trains or elevators, this false intimacy, when i want to touch a stranger so badly sometimes i have to jerk my hand away. i want to tuck the tags into the backs of their shirts, or pull a piece of lint from their sweaters. it means nothing. but then i am there with that feeling, aching in my hand. and i liked the way he sat leaning over his book, with his body bent toward it, fully involved. the words i caught were indecipherable: sorcery, trough, man, moon, blood. moonchild. it reminded me suddenly of home, of my parents. of the dark wood of the bookshelves in the living room at home, the sharp varnished wintery scent, the fireplace, the sound of the wind in the fireplace, the photograph of my mother and her dog in the mountains when she was young. i wanted so badly to lean against him. to touch the back of his neck. and it made me cry suddenly in that mute, ridiculous, expressionless way, where the tears just appear without warning, like when you stand too long in the freezing cold and can't even feel them wet on your cheeks. what is wrong with me, i thought.
then bedford avenue came and we piled out of the train car in a throng and my body was pressed against his through the doorway but it didn't matter because everyone's was and then it was over. i had to dart down the street in the wrong direction so i could get out of the crowd and breathe. i kept walking that way, away from my apartment, crying a little.
there's nothing important that it can mean. it's such a little thing. but i am built to notice these things. i am built with this aloneness around me, and i have become expert at delineating its every curve and pulse.
earlier today, a friend said to me, "you're my favorite," and i knew he meant it because he said it without thinking, like it just struck him. i knew he meant it even though we're not good friends; i see him for a few minutes once or twice a week, at most. "i know," i said. it's easy to do everything right for those two little minutes, while the rest of my life is a mess. i'm really good at those minutes.
all these years i worked so hard at being perfect, in order to be loved. i didn't know yet perfection is never loved. now my heart's split in two: between wanting to be loved, and not knowing how to stop wanting. the wanting has its own momentum. it keeps hurtling forward into the closest thing it can crash into, dragging me along after it.