Eye Contact

Prompt: Write about two people seeing each other for the first time.

It’s winter and I’m standing on the bus during morning rush hour. The floor is slick with melted snow and it smells like wet dog. I swear I can hear the bus driver laughing maliciously as he tries to throw early morning commuters on their asses. Gas. Break. Gas. Break. I cling for dear life to the strap above my head and I’m sweating buckets inside my thick polyester coat. I don’t want to risk taking it off lest I punch the annoyed-looking women beside me or elbow the poor girl pressed up against my armpit.

Stop sweating stop sweating. As if thinking it will somehow make my body stop. My muscles are tense as I try to take up the least amount of space possible. Trying only makes me sweat more. I have an important meeting at 9am sharp and lunch with a big client at noon. As I stand there swaying back and forth, all I can think is I’m going to smell, I’m going to smell. Did I remember to put deodorant on this morning? Does this girl next to me think I smell? She’s kind of cute, I really hope she doesn’t think I smell. Did I put on the white dress shirt or the grey? I really hope it’s not the grey.

“Buddy, can you please take off your backpack?”

“Huh?”

“Your backpack. Take it off please. It keeps hitting me.”

I swivel my head. I make eye contact with some short, mealy old man looking up at me from behind a pair of bifocals. You know, like the ones your grandpa wears, with the big, thick lenses and thin metal frames? I can feel the sweat on my upper lip and along my hairline now.

“Yeah, not possible at the moment. You’ll just have to tough it out until we get to the station, old man.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me, old man. Wait. It. Out.”

I seem to have stunned him into silence. Good.

The annoyed-looking woman next to me looks pissed now. I try not to look at the cute girl still wedged into my armpit.

I let out an audible breath as the bus pulls into the station. I think the sweat is dripping down my back now. Everyone seems to decompress and expand as they shuffle off the bus. I make a point to exit right behind cute girl, cutting off the old man. I catch his eye and give him a grin and a wink. He looks murderous. Good.

I catch up to cute girl and tap her shoulder as she walks into the station. We both stop and make eye contact for the first time. She’s got nice brown eyes and nice dark eyelashes. Her mouth is distracting.

“Hey, sorry that you had to spend that whole ride squished I like that. I would have moved if I could.”

“No worries. That’s usually how it goes.”

“Yeah, not that I minded either.” I say this with a raised eyebrow.

She smiles. I smile.

“You taking the subway?”

“No, I walk to my office from here,” she says.

“Bummer.” Beat. “Hey, would it be totally weird if I asked for your number?”

“Yeah.” She laughs. “But I’ll give it to you.”

We exchange numbers quickly, becoming aware that we’re smack in the middle of the morning foot traffic, people are getting off other buses and walking underground or out onto the street. A few grumble as they push past us.

I look down at my phone.

“So you’re Lucy. I’ll text you. Or call you. Or whatever. Lucy.”

She smiles and waves a hand as she turns and walks through the turnstiles. I don’t feel sweaty anymore.

I take off my coat before getting on the next train. I’m wearing the white dress shirt. There are only a few wrinkles. I make it to the office five minutes to nine. I’m plugging in my laptop when that annoying guy from Ops comes by and raps a knuckle on my desk.

“How’s it going?”

“Shit. But I got a hottie’s number on the bus today.”

“Nice one. The new VP starts today, have you met him yet?”

“I literally just got in. What do you think?”

“Oh right. Well he’s in the conference room. He wants to meet everyone.”

“Sounds like another fucking keener.”

“Seems nice enough.”

“Yeah ok buddy.”

I grab a glass of water from the kitchen and make my way to the conference room. When I enter the new VP looks across the room at me through a pair of bifocals. You know, like the ones your grandpa wears?

“Hello. I’m Fred, your new boss. But I think we’ve already met.”

Well fuck.

 

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