Every morning is a new day, the beginning of the rest of my life. But today, I’m late.
I’m in the midst of an intense video shoot, and the days often blur into late nights at the office. I’ve customized myself to a strict schedule to stay on track until this stretch of work is over. That’s slowly starting to flex a bit as I look at the clock and it’s already 8:58am.
The apathetic barista’s schedule didn’t line up with mine, and now I’m in light jog to the train station. I am often one of the first ones to arrive at the office anyway, even as a freelancer, I think smugly. I am amazing.
One round of escalators, then another, then a regular staircase. Midway down the coffee splashes onto my menswear oversized button down. Reflexively, I slow to a walk because dying in this outfit isn’t acceptable. I reach the landing relatively unscathed, but the 9:09 train is gone.
The sweat on my lower back has dried some, so a nice, damp circle presses against my skin as the 9:21 train arrives. I walk on, calculating the best place to stand while not making eye contact with anyone; my most precious skill. The overwhelming stench from a dark and dirty black cloak with what I assume is a person underneath permeates the air, and my mood.
Lest a handsome prince should interject and sweep me off my feet.
I continue my shuffle between two old ladies to find a good standing spot, when he starts talking to me, and I’m aware of him and myself all at once. He says something harmless about the spilled coffee on the lid of my cup. “In a hurry this morning?”
Suddenly, time stands still.
Oh hello, handsome man.
I don’t remember much. I only recall the witty comment about my coffee because it prompted me to giggle awkwardly and sip said coffee, only to have it dribble down my chin, adding a splotch to my already compromised thrift store shirt. The whirlwind continues as we both laugh about having pingpong tables in our offices. He gets me.
The conversation bounces back and forth as he asks me compelling questions worthy of a first date. Somehow, I now know what stop he gets on (Hollywood and Highland) and where he gets off (Pershing Square), that he works in the WeWork building in digital marketing, and that he’s from Culver City. Despite my initial apprehension, the fetid dark lump taking up three seats, and my unkempt eyebrows, this is going swimmingly.
When we stop at Vermont and Santa Monica, there’s a lull in the conversation. Maybe I should ask him for coffee? No, I have coffee in my hand and he already made a cute joke about that. Should I look at him? Looking at him in the eyes is weird, he’ll know I already named our children. Maybe he’s waiting for me to look at him so he can ask for my number? I’ll look at my coffee. Should I ask him to coff—dammit. Be cool.
At the Vermont/Beverly stop our traincar floods with new passengers.
Suddenly, time starts ticking again. FAST.
Give us space, people! The train starts rolling and he’s talking to me again. He’s so tall that my neck strains when I look up at him. I played sports in highschool so naturally, our kids are going to be very athletic, swimmers probably. He’s outgoing; I’m positive he’ll be a blast to bring to parties. He can carry on a conversation with anyone and everyone, considering he just started chatting me right up on the train, in the morning, on a Tuesday.
There’s a very pretty girl, taller than me but the perfect height for him, standing across from us on the train car. She carefully observes our interaction with inevitable jealousy.
In black jogger sweats, brand new sneakers, and a heather grey athleisure long-sleeved shirt, he’s effortless, chic. Our wedding invitations will be understated and modern.
He has short blond hair, so short it’s almost a buzz. Maybe he’s losing his hair, but that’s not a problem; I don’t mind balding guys. He’ll love when I massage the nape of his neck.
It’s convenient that he’s from Culver City because when we have kids, we’ll have family nearby. And family is so important.
His steady, techy and creative job is exactly what I’ve been looking for in a man. We’ll laugh together about the annoyances of open-air offices, and get really good at ping pong.
It really would happen like this for me, wouldn’t it? I may seem pragmatic and disillusioned to my gushing girlfriends, but I secretly always was a hopeless romantic. I have the perfectly bubbly personality for a romantic comedy with the blonde hair to match. I deserve a Meet Cute. This relationship is working out perfectly.
I side-eye the pretty girl. You wish you had my romantic fairytale life but you don’t.
7th & Metro Stop. We’re here. Well, I’m here, I have to get off now. Everyone is shuffling, why isn’t he making a move? “Ok, this is me.” I say, dying inside, as I’m swallowed up by commuters and spit out onto the platform. He’s on the train.
That’s when I realize: I don’t even know his name. Minor detail.
True love finds a way. I wait in agony as the elevator crawls up to my office floor. Hurrying to my desk, I throw open my laptop and immediately pull up LinkedIn to search every single digital marketing company in the Downtown LA WeWork building. In between my job of watching YouTube videos (my actual way of making a living), I continue my frantic stalking, which proves utterly fruitless and I’m now locked out of LinkedIn for the next 24 hours unless I want to pay for the premium version.
After regaling my closest office mates with my tale of true love, my co-worker Ellie calls WeWork and casually asks for a list of all digital marketing firms at the Downtown LA office; turns out that’s against protocol. People with their over-the-top security these days. How is anyone supposed to fall in love? Her enthusiasm wanes when I suggest an afternoon walk to the building’s lobby.
I could go early to my station, get on the train going north, get off at his stop, wait for him, coincidentally “run into” him after a “business breakfast”. Or maybe after work I’ll head over to happy hour by his building….He has to have a LinkedIn account.
The rest of the day drags on, but the butterflies in my stomach flutter with anticipation of tomorrow morning.
* * *
My eyes flit open, a full 10 minutes before my alarm. I fling the covers off and prance around the apartment. What a great day to be alive. The sun! The sun rises every day, isn’t that wonderful? Let’s go for something tight and chic today; black jeans, black shirt, gold hoops. I’m ready in a whirl and out the door to pick up coffee again. It’s our first inside joke.
I stroll into the coffee shop and make small talk with the sweet barista. My new train route is now the 9:21 train so he and I can ride together. I mosey down the steps and park myself in the exact same spot, in order to catch the exact same traincar. This will be exactly like before, except now I look gorgeous and I’m prepared to take this relationship off the rails.
My eyes laser through every train car window to make sure he hasn’t accidentally gotten on a different car. I don’t see him. Reluctantly I step in but he’s not here and my heart sinks. How could he do this to me? I curled my hair for this.
The ride feels like a lifetime. Everyone on this train is horrible.
We’ve come to a standstill and over the loudspeaker I hear, “This train is having mechanical difficulties and will be operating at half speed. Be prepared for sudden stops.”
This is the worst day of my entire life.
Forever passes, and I pop up from the underground into Downtown LA, nauseated and livid. Didn’t he want to cross paths one more time and ask for my number? Wasn’t it fate first and choice second that would bring us together? Meeting a possible boyfriend in person would be not only exciting, it’s almost unheard of. They’d look at me and think, she’s the type of girl who would meet her husband on a morning train route.
I’m beginning to think I did something wrong. Should I have been more outgoing during our first interaction? I probably should have stayed on the train past my stop and waited until we arrived at his. I could’ve just backtracked to the office after our official number exchange and arrived a little late to work; with a goddam chic, comfortable, real-life boyfriend with family in Culver City and off-the-charts genetic prowess for my future children. We could have been a ping pong power couple. What’s wrong with me? This is all my fault.
No! This is his fault, he should have tried harder. Why didn’t he wait for me this morning? Why didn’t he ask for my number or give me his card? This is our first fight.
Fuming, I step into the elevator of my office building, when an attractive man with curly hair asks which floor I need, and I am aware of him and myself all at once…