To the boy on the bus:
You were the highlight of my weekdays during the months I commuted to my miserable publishing job from my miserable hometown in Northern New Jersey. I don't know why you seemed so interesting to me. But there's slim pickings in suburbia, so you take what you can get.

You were so cute: skinny, curly hair, quiet-looking. Sideburns. It was the jacket that did me in, though. Your jacket was the same as mine. And on this commuter bus where I felt like an interloper, this bus full of snoring, hairy businessmen with bad breath and too-loud cell phones, bumping through commuter traffic twice a day for a hellish hour-plus, you were a breath of fresh air.

I know you noticed me, too. I didn't know your name, where you worked, or where you lived--only that you got off the bus after me on the way home. And that sometimes you drove your car to the stop, and bought a copy of the Daily News. Once, I saw you talk to a girl with whom I had gone to both high school and college. Coincidence? But I still couldn't place you. Did we know one another before?

So I began to run faster in the evenings to make the early bus, in hope that you would be on it too. And you would. You would brush past me on your way to a seat further back, both of us resolutely ignoring one another. I would look out the window, nervous, palms sweating. I could feel you looking at me, small peeks, glances caught out of the corner of my eye as I walked up the aisle to tell the driver to stop at the next corner. We kept tabs on one another all through that fall, winter, and spring.

But what would I say if I spoke to you? "Hi, I've noticed you, and I know you've noticed me, too"? Would we have anything in common besides matching zip-up jackets? I imagined asking you on a date, you picking me up at my parents' home in your borrowed car. Where would we go in a town of 5,000 people and no Main Street? Starbucks? The diner? Dunkin' Donuts? Too, too pathetic.

On the day that I signed my lease for my new apartment, I bid you silently farewell. You'd never see me again, I thought, and you didn't even know it. But months later, as I was coming back to the city after a holiday weekend at home, there you were. This time you made a beeline for me when you saw me, and asked if the seat next to me was taken. I nodded; there were rows of empty seats behind us. I left my sunglasses and my headphones on, stared out at the highway, and we sat still like that for the entire ride, next to one another, arms touching, two transparent people attempting to be blasˇ. A little pressure, a clearing of breath. You held the door open for me into Port Authority, and I kicked myself the whole way to work.

And that was it.


Thursday, February 17, 2000


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