I put off a looming Chemistry exam last semester to write this. 200% worth it.
This was originally a Rookiemag submission that they turned down, which is totally fine because writing about it allowed me to revisit the story and I liked the memory so much that I wanted to publish it anyway. The theme that they wanted submissions for was “Forever” so this is what came to be of that:
In the description of the “Forever” theme, the phrase “fleetingness of all things” resonated with me and the first thing that came to mind was my trip to Europe this past summer. While there, I took a bazillion (literally a bazillion) trains and subways and buses and some were long trips and some were brief, but on the lengthy train rides I would listen to Lana on repeat (I don’t think there’s anything more perfect/ironic than falling asleep to “American” on a trans-Euro locomotive), which is partly why I was inspired to write this.
One of the coolest moments I had while experiencing Europe’s kickbutt transportation system was so beautiful yet tragically fleeting, but I’ll probably remember it forever. I’m almost positive I was in Paris (I hate myself for not keeping a better journal), on the subway ride home from seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night, and I was exhausted and standing on this crowded subway, feeling somewhat like a scrub because backpacking isn’t the most glamorous but Parisian women definitely are. I remember noticing this one guy on the subway; everyone else was fuzzy (not literally… great now Big Foot is invading my mind). He was about my age, perhaps older, and a bit dark and handsome in a strikingly understated and edgy way. When I looked at him again, lo and behold he was looking at me too. I looked away immediately at first, because that’s what the polite society has taught us to do, but then when I looked back, we made eye contact again, and this time we held it for a hypnotically long time. It wasn’t creepy or uncomfortable like you would expect. It was embarrassingly daring, because confident girls don’t usually reenact flirting methods inspired by romantic comedies. But this trip taught me to throw caution to the wind and sip out of a large steaming mug of reckless abandon, so I stared back.
When the time came for him to get off at his stop, I watched him exit the subway. As he began to walk away, he looked directly at me and smiled a smile that mirrored my own awareness of the moment we just shared. A little bit of shyness, a little bit of mischief. But then the subway started moving forward and in a flash he was gone. The magic was amplified by the fleetingness of the moment; it was minutes of my 19 years of living, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget it despite my failure to record it in a journal. Somehow this guy managed to pull at heartstrings without a word spoken because when the subway sped off, I felt so helplessly deflated knowing I would never see him again. (“Cry me a river, Lauren.” Yes I know, I know.)
Although staring back didn’t have any tangible rewards, and even though the mega-dreamy European guy didn’t turn around and come running back to fulfill my impossible hopes (Disney, you’re being paged), I made an anonymous human connection layered with mystery, leaving me with a frustratingly infinite cliff hanger. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed the connection, but it was intimate and the fact that it was with a total stranger makes it all the more honest and genuine. We both knew that we’d never see each other ever again (woe is me), therefore staring at each other for an embarrassingly long time had absolutely no repercussions. The teenage girl in me hopes he remembers the exchange and would like to think that that smile he gave held a little bit of yearning too. The super hopeful teenage girl in me that dances on the verge of ridiculousness and flirts with impossibility also clings to a shred of hope to reunite with this mystery boy (SUE ME).
So the moral of the story is, when life presents you with a moment that would otherwise go against your normal logic, cling to it. When life presents you with something so wonderful and fleeting, completely envelope yourself in it. When life gives you lemons in the form of a gorgeous foreign stud that happens to be staring directly into your soul, by golly YOU BETTER STARE BACK and lose yourself in that tiny moment because it sure as heck doesn’t happen every day (unless you’re Emma Watson or something). Every human being deserves to treat himself or herself to a stupidly romantic moment so if something seems fleeting and inconsequential, eat that shit up.
And the biggest mystery still remains: was it my messy hair or unwashed clothes that he found mildly worth looking at?