We stand in front of his apartment building. He gives me one last hug, and a forehead kiss. “Hey, you’ll send me those pics?” I ask, trying to conceal my quivering lip with a smile. 

I inhale with my face pressed against his chest, trying to memorize how his back feels with my fingers. I don’t know when I’ll be able to wrap my arms around him again. Then the hug ends, he kisses me on the forehead, and disappears back inside the building. 

I walk back to the subway. My body feels heavy. There’s a dull ache throbbing in my inner thighs and a deep emptiness gnawing away at my insides. I shake my head, trying to clear away the distracting thoughts. I have less than two days before I leave the country. I don’t have time.

As I descend into the subway station, I go through my to-do list. 

Pick up prescriptions. Finish laundry. Fix suitcase zipper. 

Prescriptions. Laundry. Zipper.

His hands on my waist. My lips against his neck.

Prescriptions. Laundry. Zipper.

I push through the turnstile and slump onto the nearest bench. There’s a man to my left crouched towards the edge of the platform, trying to coax a large rat out of the tracks, going tsk tsk tsk, like you might to a cat.

The day before, in Central Park, he had asked me what the nastiest type of subway rider was. 

“The nail clippers,” he said. “They are, without a doubt, the worst.”

“I once saw a man go from plucking out nose hairs to shaving his toes,” I replied. “I think I win.” 

He made a face in response.

I wonder what kind of face he would make if I told him about the rat man.

Getting prescriptions. Doing laundry. Fixing zipper. 

We spent the afternoon walking aimlessly through the city, neither of us leading or following the other. We walked Central Park from top to bottom, and then kept going. Our conversation tumbled out of our mouths: nightmare roommates, childhood dreams, troubles at our current jobs.

He told me he was a musician, trying to finish a composition.

“The writer’s block is eating away at me,” he said. I raised an eyebrow, and he playfully hit my shoulder.

“I’m serious,” he insisted. “The other day I was just sitting at the piano until I literally fell asleep.” 

I laughed.

“I guess I’m just waiting for some burst of inspiration. I just don’t know where to look for it.” 

I watched him as he spoke. I felt a desire to be the inspiration he was looking for. My cheeks flushed, and I looked back at my feet. 

“So, what about you?” he asked. 

I considered telling him that I had only two days left in the country. 

“Well,” I began, but faltered, and instead quickly launched into my first-grade students’ latest shenanigans. His eyes remained fixed on me while I spoke. They made me feel large and significant but also timid and small. It scared me. As we walked, his hand would occasionally graze against mine. We came across a floral mural filled with oranges and pinks and greens that were blinding in the sunlight.

“Let me take your picture,” he said.

When I tried to protest, he insisted, “Come on, it’ll look so nice with your dress.” 

I reached for my phone, but he had already taken his out. I struck a pose against the wall as he snapped away, smirking behind the camera.

“Send those to me later?” I asked.

Prescriptions. Zipper. Laundry. 

Was it the other way around?

My train finally arrives.


At a small restaurant on a quiet side street, we inhaled large bowls of spicy tonkotsu ramen. “Feel my food baby,” I said, and he reached out and softly held my noodle-filled belly.

We followed our feet until we ended up in Greenwich Village. He said he knew a good jazz club. I said that everyone knows a good jazz club in the Village. He led us to Mezzrow, but the show was already sold out. Don’t worry, he assured me, there’s another good one down the block. 

At Smalls, the quintet of middle-aged white guys playing Miles Davis tunes was good, but not fantastic. We sat there drinking our beers and tapping our feet, our knees touching. Between songs, he put his arm around me to lean in and ask if I wanted anything else to drink. I said I was fine, and his arm stayed there for the rest of the show. 

As the group went into the first measures of “It Never Entered My Mind,” I laid my head on his shoulder. 

When we left, it was almost midnight.

We sat on a bench in a small park across the street. We talked about the show, and then we just sat in silence. Not an awkward silence, a needed silence, just to take in each other’s presence. I gazed at the few stars I could see through the trees. 

“Hey,” I said. “You see that really bright star up there? That’s Mars.” His eyes followed my finger.

“Sometimes I think about impulsively buying a telescope,” he replied. 

I nodded.

“It’s getting late,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said.

Picking up zipper. Finishing prescriptions. Fixing laundry.

That’s not right. I rest my head in my hands.

He lives all the way up in Inwood. This is such a long train ride.

His lips were so soft.

I woke up to the early morning sun streaming through the window. He was still asleep, breathing deeply. It felt like time might have stopped, but the sounds of city bustle coming from the sidewalks below told me otherwise. One minute more, my heart pleaded, pulling his t-shirt over my face. 

I felt him stir, and when I turned, I found his hazel eyes staring into mine.



We stayed frozen like that, just looking at each other. 

I shifted my gaze first, and staring at the ceiling, I asked, “Do you believe in soulmates?” 

He kind of chuckled.

“Like, love-at-first-sight soulmates?” 

“No,” I said, piecing together my thoughts. “More like, cosmically destined to be together. Maybe not forever, but at least for, like, a solid period of time. Like, someone who you truly connect with.” 

Like someone who you can spend an entire day wandering through the city with, I thought. Like someone who you’ve never met before, but after less than 24 hours, feel like you’ve known for a lifetime.

“I’ve never really thought about it,” he said after a moment. His arm rested gently in the curve of my waist. “But, yeah, I think that kind of connection exists.”

Pick up connections. No. Prescriptions.

My apartment is still three stops away. He believes that kind of connection exists. 

Pick up prescriptions.

“Oh shit,” he said, looking at his phone. “It’s later than I thought.”

“Got a busy day?” I asked. It was time for me to leave. 

“I’m just meeting a friend for an early lunch,” he replied.

“Gotcha,” I said, sitting up, trying to keep my voice steady and cool. “I’ll get out of your hair.”    

“Well, not quite yet,” he said, grabbing me around the waist and pulling me back into the soft comfort of his pillows. He nuzzled his head into the crook of my neck. We lay there for a few minutes. I ran my fingers through his thick curls, wanting to never let go. 


At my stop, I slowly climb the stairs out of the station. I have the urge to lie down in the middle of the sidewalk and have the passers-by step over me. Instead, I go home. I fall onto my bed and when I pull off my sweater, I realize I’m still wearing his t-shirt.

Prescriptions. Laundry. Zipper.


I’m still thinking about the rat man in the subway. I’ll never forget the look of defeat on his face.

A minute before the train arrived, he was nearly on his stomach, holding a piece of food over the platform edge, making clicking sounds with his tongue. I couldn’t find the rat until the train’s headlights appeared at the end of the tunnel, and I realized that it seemed to be watching the man with similar intensity. The rat shuffled an inch closer, blinked its eyes, and shuffled again. The train grew closer, and I almost yelled at the man to move out of the way, but he was so engrossed in his progress. The train horn blared, and the man leaped to his feet as it pulled into the station. The rat vanished. Was all that work for nothing? Would he ever get a second chance? As the train left the station, pulling me back downtown, I watched him in his melancholy, staring helplessly at the empty tracks, until he, too, disappeared into the darkness. 

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor

Powered by Froala Editor