There I was, in a crowded 4 train on my commute to work in the Financial District, reading another horrifying story about the ravages of neoliberalism, when something caught my eye.
It was one of those rare times when your train is running parallel to another and you can see the passengers across from you. Directly in my line of sight was a beautiful redheaded woman reading a book. Her car was empty and the window framed her in an Edward Hopper vignette. I savored the moment, knowing it would not last for long.
“It’s like a romantic film,” I thought. A man looks longingly at an alluring woman and she disappears. In the movie they would run into each other again and the story would begin. The trains separated and I went back to my reading.
A few minutes later, I looked up again–and the redhead was standing next to me. She must have switched trains at the last station. She looked as attractive up close as she did far away: porcelain complexion, blazing hair. So what would happen next in the movie? I drew a blank.
For starters, the male protagonist would not be a middle-aged man, I thought. And if he were, he wouldn’t be played by me. The scene calls for, I don’t know, Mark Ruffalo or Benicio del Toro (both born the same year I was). The only actor I’ve ever been compared to is David Cross, and I look like him if he hadn’t been to the gym in 20 years.
The train pulls into my station, and the woman gets off ahead of me. As we walk up the stairs, my knee hurts, a result of shoveling snow the day before. As I make my way to work I realize the date movie has turned into a short story by John Cheever.