In the Back

Dear J-

There’s a couple in the back, flirting with each other; you came in too late to see how they met, but you can tell it in the way they talk, the exaggerated gestures and only-just too loud laughter that lingers a little after the joke evaporates. In a flash, you see their futures spinning away from today: acquanintances, perhaps, at first sitting on the train together to be with a familiar face instead of strangers but what’s the difference when it’s this early and anonymous anyway? If you reach out — arms held wide and ran up and down the aisle, you’d only touch seats and that couple in the back, conversation spilling over you like rain.

Their stated plans and the visions you have of their future collide: which one makes more sense? You’ve been an observant student of human behaviors long enough to recognize the kind of camaraderie borne of long nights and shared struggles, of common ground and eager discovery and you wonder, like going to the Pancake House on Sunday mornings, which couples are still in the intrepid explorer phase and which are content to let silence wash over as the common tide ebbs and the interest falls away. Perhaps this is it, though; perhaps they’re the one of their ones. Perhaps this time is forever.

Hope washes over all of us, in no small measure and no easy rhythm. You wish them well, you choose their adventure according to how you’d write it, that this spark kindles fire and blossoms into a long, enduring warmth. You root for the rough patches to be smoothed over, for the gathering storms to pass and to recognize the future that lies ahead together shines brighter than that behind. Or perhaps you’re caught up in their enthusiastic verbal probing and fall for the incurable romantic heart inside yourself, should this be a musical, you’d cue the upbeat music of initial love and ecstatic mutual shared interest. Still yet to come, though, the down doomed reasons why they can’t but … but there’s still hope, isn’t there? If it’s that kind of musical. If you’re the kind of person that rooted for the Phantom over the Viscount, though …

You’ve shared their lives, looking in from the inside, for about half an hour; should you follow further and pry even deeper or does it end here? What if you ran into them again five years from now? Ten? Would you remind them of what they had, as you saw it, and would they deny it? Or have they embraced it? The conversation is about nothing, there’s nothing and everything obvious about it, isn’t there? Half an hour later, and have you learned anything beyond what you project?



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