The G train doesn’t go anywhere except to George’s place in Queens.
The G train doesn’t go anywhere except to George’s place in Queens. I never see anyone I know at the Metropolitan stop getting on it. But I take it a couple of times a week to Jackson Heights, to see George and we have a good time, George and I. We drink a few beers, maybe watch a movie, make love. G is for G train. G is for George.
I’ve been dating George for a couple of weeks, and I’m beginning to recognize the people on the G. It’s an unusually quiet train: working mothers, young businessmen, people with families and decent jobs and dreams that aren’t out of reach. Sort of a middle class train. I mean, middle class by Greenpoint standards, by Jackson Heights standards. A regular folks kind of train.
Except for one: The Egyptian. He’s tall, and his skin is quite dark. His features are sharp and Eastern. He has an air of shyness about him like his suit has an air of being behind a desk all day. I have no idea if he’s really Egyptian: he could be Indian, or Pakistani, but I start thinking of him as The Egyptian.
I notice him every time I’m on my way to George’s, because I always go at the same time of day. And The Egyptian notices me, I think, too. He’s exotic and handsome and gentle with his newspaper that he hides behind every time he catches me catching him looking at me.
I’m amused. It’s sweet. I’d like to tell George, but he’d never understand. Too jealous. So I keep The Egyptian to myself, my own little amusement. My secret admirer on the G train. My secret.
Because I don’t tell my friends either. I don’t tell anyone at all. And now I find myself looking for The Egyptian, hoping for The Egyptian, straining for a glimpse of The Egyptian on the platform straining for a glimpse of me whenever we pull into the 21st Street station, too shy to struggle a smile for him but too intrigued to look away immediately when he gets on to my car again. And when he’s not there I panic a little inside. And I get to George’s maybe not as bright and happy to see him as I should be.
When I do see The Egyptian, oh joy! Eventually, we stop looking away to hide behind his newspaper or my book and spend the seven stops between 21st Street and Jackson Heights looking at each other instead. But we never say a word. Maybe it’s more magical this way. Maybe we’re both too shy. Or overwhelmed. But we stay quiet, silently looking.
I’m starting to feel guilty, like I’m having an affair. With George. The Egyptian doesn’t know about him, but he would be hurt if he did. I want to say I’m sorry. I want to beg his forgiveness and tell him I never meant to hurt him. I want to tell him that I never meant to use the G train this way and if I had known beforehand, I would have stopped seeing George immediately.
One day, I do stop. George and I break up. It doesn’t really hurt, but I panic a little inside about The Egyptian. For some weeks, I can’t seem to remember the exact time I’d go see George. I try to retrace my steps and my pace and my timing but it’s never right again. I’ve lost The Egyptian. That really hurts. That makes me cry.
A couple of years later, I’m temping around 59th and Broadway. It’s lunchtime, and I’m pushed into the crosswalk by the hungry crush of office workers with lunch hours ticking away. Halfway across, I look up and find The Egyptian’s eyes, and he looks down and finds me.
But the crush is too strong and neither of us can turn against it. We are each of us carried to opposite sides of the street. I turn on the sidewalk and look back to see if he is looking back at me. He is. We stand there looking at each other across the great divide of Broadway as long as we can, until a city bus disappears us from each other forever again.
© Susie Kahlich 2016