I got on my train to work yesterday and found a seat in the area I normally sit, toward the end of the second car. I sit there because it’s the closest to the end of the platform of my stop, which means I have less distance to walk to my office once I get off the train. This is important because it’s efficient, and I love being lazy.
I sat down next to a guy in his mid-late 20s. He had a beard, a short ponytail, and a book, but it wasn’t a bad ponytail, or a bad beard. In the part of the train with the seats facing each other in front of me were two guys and a girl. They were around the same age, but gutterpunk/hippy-ish types. Also, they were drunk. I quickly took out the book I was reading and immediately tried to get engrossed in it, or at least to appear like I was engrossed. Unfortunately, in battles of what’s more interesting, loud, drunk people usually win against books, even when they’re written by impossibly cute, somewhat sad indie authors.
“Hey, whatcha readin’?!” The loudest of them was trying to be friendly. I steeled my resolve not to look up, hoping I looked like I was about to find out who really killed JFK. Be more invisible, I commanded myself. He tried again, then either called me an asshole, or maybe himself one. I think he was calling himself one, because later he definitely did. He then asked the guy next to me the same question, but before he could answer, followed up with, “Is it a newspaper?” Not looking to encourage him, the guy next to me lied and said, “Yeah, it’s a newspaper.” I silently thanked him for taking the bullet, though later I felt a little guilty for forcing him into it. One of us had to talk to them. Otherwise, they might have rioted. Maybe even worse. Who knows what drunk gutterpunks are capable of when ignored?
Alpha drunk continued to talk to my seatmate a little more, then he asked what his name was. “Adam”, he replied. Wait, what? I was sitting next to a guy also named Adam? It felt like the train had hit a brick wall. I braced myself, expecting to be asked to introduce myself and wondering what would happen when I answered. He’s going to think I’m messing with him, then he’s going to hit me. I was sure of it. Or the other Adam was going to think I was lying and weird. No good could come of me giving my real name. What if I said my name was something else? What name did I always like? Sam, maybe? Tim? I imagined introducing myself as Sam. Not just on the train, but in the future: at dinner parties, interviews, etc. Sam sounded friendly and easy-going. I could be a Sam. I held my breath, waiting for my turn.
Sadly, it never came. The next stop was the drunks’. They got off the train, waving bye to their new friend, the other Adam. I never had the opportunity to try out my new name. But now I had a new situation: I was sitting next to someone with my name, and I had no idea what to do about it. I felt like I had a secret that was all to myself. I didn’t know if I should tell him, or even if I wanted to. It was like I had some kind of power over him, except it wasn’t the kind of power I could do anything with. Except lose.
By the time our part of the train had emptied, I forgot what he looked like. Of course that was the exact moment when I wanted nothing more than to glance up and to my left. Just for a second, so I could see what I was up against, because you’re always naturally competing against other people with the same name. (“Which Adam do you mean?” “The smarter, taller, better-looking one.”) Of course, you can’t just stare at the stranger sitting next to you. Even when you share the same name. I think it’s written somewhere in the rules of riding public transportation, next to not putting your feet on other people. I also tried to see what he was reading without moving my head, but in a way that didn’t seem like I was trying to see what he was reading. No dice.
I made a half-hearted effort to get back into my book, but it was a lost cause. What book could ever compare to the real-life drama happening around me? Adam #2 deserved to know what was going on, but how could I tell him? Rather, how could I tell him without coming off as creepy as I know it would? Impossible. Adam #2 was going to get off the train, blissfully unaware of what had happened that morning. I wondered how he could get through the day, the week, the rest of his life, in this kind of ignorance. I know I could never do it.
When we got to his stop, he stood up and asked me to let him out. I got up and out of my seat to make it easier for him, as people who just turn their legs to one side are annoying, and I wasn’t going to inconvenience Adam #2. Not after all he had done for me. And especially since he was going to live out his days never knowing he sat next to some with his name.
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These kinds of things happen to me all the time, and now I’m starting to write them down.
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Appendix: There was more to the drunk people on the train. Alpha drunk was sitting next to his girlfriend, who was actually quiet. He (loudly) claimed she was the most beautiful woman in the universe. “Fuck Ms. America, Fuck Ms. Venezuela, Fuck Ms. Russia! This girl is the best one ever! Just look at her aura. You can feel it coming off her. Here, sit next to her and put your arm around her. No, it’s okay, you can do it.” His friend awkwardly switched seats with him and did what he was told. He and the girlfriend laughed nervously. Later, I stole a quick glance up, because how could anyone ignore the most beautiful girl in the universe sitting in your very own train? The second I did, both she and her boyfriend turned their heads to look in my direction. I reflexively snapped my head back down to my book, embarrassed beyond belief. Served me right for listening to someone who gets drunk before noon.
I’m not going to say if she was the most beautiful woman in the universe. Read more…