As I get braver about sharing my work — first it was the poems on my Instagram account) and then it was my publications in this quarter’s newsletter — it gets easier. Today I’m sharing a non-fiction piece I wrote some time ago but that I stopped submitting for publication. I’ve really been focusing on poetry and letting non-fiction essays take a backseat for a little bit.
I hope you enjoy this short, exploratory piece and that it inspires you to share more of what makes you tick this spring.
On the Metro-North
We are riding a late train out of Grand Central. I don’t notice you until you catch me snapping pictures of a drunk guy passed out cold in his seat and snoring.
“I saw that,” you say and I giggle, looking at my hands.
I am drunk too. Actually, I am much drunker than I should be, given that I am both riding the late train and coming from a first date.
Not expecting you to say much more, I go back to texting my date, texting my friends, sending pictures of the man passed out, but you ask me where I am going. I tell you I am headed to my mother’s in Connecticut, to take her boyfriend’s boat out, to forget about my ex from last month. I tell you the truth but not just because I have been drinking, but because your eyes are nice to look into. You smile and nod like you already know it all. Was I so obvious?
You tell me that you are working at the Lincoln Center as an intern but have to live in Stamford. You do the forty-five minute reverse commute everyday coming into the city early and leaving late.
“But, that’s part of the deal when you’re young, right?” You ask me.
As if I should agree with you, as if I know what I am doing, as if I should tell you that you’re doing the right thing living an exhausting life to get somewhere, anywhere, better. I sort of nod, let my heavy drunk head slosh about in a white wine puddle.
“That’s what they say.”
I don’t share my first year in New York story with you. Even though everyone has one. And they are always awful and painful and lonely but also full of parties and strangers and pink sunrises while still in work clothes from the day before. I decide to let you figure it out. I decide I had too much to drink and want to shut my eyes. I decide I give terrible advice.
You’re just a kid but we exchange numbers anyway. You get off in Stamford and I continue on toward New Haven, letting the white wine seep into my bones. Only a few minutes go by before my phone buzzes.
“I’m not kidding, I just walked by a car fire,” you write.
I laugh in shock. The kind of laughter that comes from the back of your throat and catches your teeth.
We don’t text again for months. Your number is saved but forgotten and I hope to god you aren’t still doing that awful commute because you think it will give you a new life. A life where something, anything feels certain because I am not sure yet if anyone can have a certain life.
A year passes and my phone buzzes. “Zach Train” my phone says. I finally remember your name.
You tell me you’ve seen another car on fire. You aren’t sure why we stopped talking but you remember the car on fire.
“How have you been?” You finish.
I don’t reply. Leaving the weird train ride to be our one and only story. Because it was your first year in New York. Because it can be. Because I’ve met somebody else. And because you really shouldn’t get numbers from drunk girls on trains.