She was average height and just a little clumsy. She was always on a diet because of something her mother said to her when she was fifteen. She was brilliant, smarter than I’ll ever be, a mathematician working for a university think tank – always calculating the improbable. She was beautiful, especially when her tumultuous red hair fell down in disarray. I was smitten from the moment I first saw her on the train, the 8:00AM commuter train into the city.
That first day she was reading a book. I ached to speak with her, so I peeked at the book title in search of an icebreaker. The book was something about Linear Matrix Inequalities in System and Control Theory. That was no good. I maneuvered behind her and looked over her shoulder, hoping that there was a novel, of some sort, hidden behind the math text. I scanned the page and couldn’t understand a thing printed on it but, I could tell it wasn’t steamy romantic literature. It was pure academia. She got off the train at the University stop and I kicked myself all morning for having let her slip by. I never even said hello. At noon, I told the boss I was sick, nauseous, and had to go home.
“Of course,” he told me. “Go home, get some rest, see your doctor if you need to. Get well and let me know if you will be missing tomorrow as well. Remember, anything more than a day and a half requires a physician’s note or you will be terminated.”
I nodded my head.
“Chicken soup,” he called to my back as I left, “it works wonders!”
Making my way to the stop I took the train to University Station, where I hung out all afternoon looking for her. It was about 6:30 when I spied her coming up the stairs. I stood as the train pulled in and got on the same car as she. It was crowded but not too crowded and I managed to snag the seat next to her without appearing to be a stalker. Her nose was already buried in the same book she had been reading that morning.
I cleared my throat, “Excuse me, is this seat taken?” were the first words I said to her and they weren’t very romantic. She pulled off her glasses and looked up at me. I looked at her and fell into her eyes, the color of emeralds, bottomless. I didn’t hear what she said but I sat down. She went back to her book.
“I had a great day today,” I blurted out like a fool, “how about you?”
She closed the book on her finger and looked at me again. God, those limpid eyes, “I beg your pardon?”
“I said I think you’re beautiful and I want to get to know you better. Would you like to get a bite to eat, or some coffee, or something?” I took a deep breath. Did I really just say that out loud? I messed that up, big time. She’s going to tell me to leave and she’s going to call the cops. I’m going to wind up on a sex offender list and have to give up my apartment because it’s too close to the school. My life is ruined. Wait she’s talking again, “W, W, What?” I stuttered.
“Coffee sounds nice.” She said and I realized that she was repeating it for my benefit. The train pulled into a station. I looked out to see where we were.
“There’s a good place a couple of blocks from here.” We gathered up our things and hurried onto the platform. We sat and talked for three hours in the coffee shop that night. I learned she was single and had never really had time for a relationship. I learned about her job and how she got along with her mom. I learned she was an only child who grew up in the country. Rural Ohio was home and she did her undergraduate work at Ohio State, Masters in New York, at Columbia.
I told her that I had a GED, four years in the Navy and was still going to Community College, studying Literature. We told each other a lot more that night but so much of it was a blur. I kept getting lost in her eyes.
We courted on the train for a couple of months; we would sit together and hold hands. We’d go to our coffee shop two or three times a week. Then she got the phone call about her mom. It wasn’t good. She’s on a leave of absence from her work at the University. We speak every day by phone and exchange e-mails. She writes me long letters by hand and I save every one. I have a week’s vacation due next month. She’s invited me to come to Ohio. I’m going to go.
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