Max and Sophia walked onto the train sometime around 5 o’clock in the morning. He was dressed in a black tuxedo, white shirt and black bowtie and vest. His vest was unbuttoned and his collar open. He had dark features; dark hair, eyes and skin; stood at five feet nine inches. He was in his late 20’s.
Sophia was dressed in a black gown with a slit from her waist on down. She was around five foot six while wearing a pair of Italian heels. She had dirty blonde hair which fell behind her, dark skin which contrasted perfectly against her green eyes. She was also in her late 20’s.
She whispered to him that she was chilly and he pulled off his tuxedo jacket and draped it across her shoulders. She smiled and put her head on his shoulder.
They had boarded the subway on 57th Street in Manhattan following a wedding they had attended at the Pierre Hotel. They were heading for Sophia’s apartment on Prospect Park West. She lived in a brownstone in a third floor walkup which overlooked the park across the street. She shared the apartment with her friend, Sharon. Sharon was a dark haired Sephardic Jew who Sophia had been friends with since first grade.
On the train they were accompanied by an older Islamic lady who would smile to everyone who walked on as if she knew them each personally. It was a sincere Grandmotherly greeting which made everyone her instant friend.
There was also a group of guys who had obviously drank too much that night but were smart enough to take public transportation rather than getting behind the wheel. There was an Asian couple who seemed to be sleeping with their eyes open while two Mexicans were on their way to or from somewhere; they sat across from the Asian couple. A black man in his late thirties was doing a crossword puzzle while a white kid sat with a bag in his embrace, looking as if he were about to cry and as if he was running away from home.
At Delancey Street save for the black man, the train emptied out which left the black man with a smile and said, “Sorry folks, but I am getting off on the next stop.”
As the train left the station at East Broadway, it was just them alone. She looked into his eyes and stood up. She lifted her dress up and sat, face to face on his lap. Their lips touched and they felt the life of the train pulsating beneath them; the blood was thrushing and they were as one as the train rumbled through the Rutgers Street tunnel.
One month earlier
He had met Sophia during a book signing event at Barnes and Noble, which neither of them were attending. He was sitting in a chair reading “Cannery Row” when she sat in the couch across from him. He kept gazing her way as she was reading a book with a crying man on the cover, with a title of “A Little Life” thinking, “I need to speak with her.”
After a while he finally worked up the nerve.
“That looks like a really uplifting book.”
“I am sorry, are you talking to me?” She responded.
“Yes, sorry, that’s all I have.”
“You couldn’t come up with a better opening line? That is borderline insulting. My mother wrote this book and I provided the cover art.”
“You are kidding, right?”
She laughed an adorable goofy laugh.
“Are you here for the book signing?” I asked her.
“No; are you?”
“No, although I can sign your book if you’d like.”
Fake laugh. “ Are you one of those ‘slick Rick quick pick me up guys’ are you?”
“No, I am definitely not one of those. I had to take a Xanax with a shot of tequila just to work up the nerve to say those ingenious words.”
She laughed, “Well it worked,” she smiled. “I come here to read all the time. It’s my way of feeling as if I am being social while doing what I love best.”
He laughed. “What’s your name?” He asked her.
“Sophia and you are?”
“Max,” He stood up and put out his hand, “Very nice to meet you.”
They spoke for a couple of hours, there were a lot of similarities plus they found that they had some mutual friends.
As they stood to leave he put on his Met’s hat. She laughed.
“The Met’s huh?” She said.
“Always – do you like baseball?”
“Well, it’s a family obsession, baseball.”
“The Met’s of course.”
They exchanged numbers and he asked her if she would like to get together for dinner one night, she smiled and said, call me and ask me properly.” She smiled and walked out the door.
He called her that same night and they spoke for several hours and decided to meet up for dinner the next night. This went on for the next four weeks; they could not get enough of each other, physically, they were extremely in sync; ethos and religion were a match as well. Both were modern Orthodox Jews who came from close knit families and both enjoyed the familial aspect of the religion more than the laws of the religion itself.
He was smitten by her smile, her voice and her personality. She was taken by the fact that he was a gentleman but also possessed a ruggedness about him.
She had felt a pull to him that night in the bookstore as she sat across from him.
When all the pieces fit so neatly, sometimes it can cause fluttering or temblors which can cause the perfect fit to nudge out of place and cause some internal panic. She thought about him way too frequently and kept their relationship to herself because she didn’t want to share it with anyone.
For the next month they spent almost every day together. There were sundays at brunch in different spots around town; they went to Central Park, rode on the merry go round, ate ice cream and sat on benches people watching. She showed him the beauty of Prospect Park and they watched as the season changed from summer to autumn. They spent time in bookstores and he wrote poetry for her. They spent a lot of time in his apartment and he cooked for her. They held hands when they walked. She kissed him now and then, “just because” which brought a distant and strange emotion he could barely recognize.
When they first made love there was something electric there – she had lost her virginity several years back when she was engaged to “Asshole” who turned out to be just that. After six months of engagement – he suddenly never came home. He did send a postcard from Atlanta saying, “I am was sorry, but I had a better opportunity.” She was hurt but relieved, glad they didn’t go further in their relationship but hurt that she was stupid enough to get as far as they did.
She always felt something negative from the physical relationship – but when it came to Max there was something invigorating. It didn’t take work for her to enjoy it and to bring enjoyment to him.
He thought the sex was amazing and never wanted to leave the bed. It was almost spiritual when they were together – he could understand the difference between “getting laid” and “making love.”
They were both scarred from previous relationships and scared from this one – but they each kept those feelings hidden, revealing only the relevant parts of their past to avoid awkward future revelations.
They were both scared that they were about to be hit with a baseball bat, awoken from this reverie to a cold reality – that love is a lie and is unattainable.
But they were both in it too deep and that’s when panic began to seep in.
At the wedding she watched as the bride and groom danced. She wanted that with Max and that’s when she had an anxiety attack. She excused herself to go to the bathroom and in the stall took a pen from her purse and wrote a note on a napkin.
Rutgers Street tunnel
They were entwined on their private subway car somewhere under water; she held him tighter than usual and he felt her heart beating against his. Her head fell back as they rolled into Brooklyn and he held her close to him as the doors opened and she quickly slid beside him.
Several people lumbered onto the train; Max and Sophia smiled and she rested her head on his shoulder. The bride at the wedding they were returning from was Sophia’s first cousin; it was also Max and Sophia’s first steps into the social circle as a couple. It had been a little over a month since they first met and things were moving at a anxiety producing speed.
The train came to a stop, Sophia had fallen asleep on Max’s shoulder, he woke her with a kiss. They stepped off the train and held hands as the train disappeared behind them; they walked up the stairs to the street.
The streets were in full motion – on the streets were newspaper and garbage trucks; people with cups in one hand and briefcases in the other. There was an aroma of freshly brewed coffee, a bakery and that perfume of rotted food and body parts that the garbage truck left in it’s wake. The cool morning air didn’t stand a chance against thos little to offset that lovely “aroma.” As they walked to her apartment door, she pulled off her heals, she kissed him and looked him in his eyes.
“I wrote my number on this napkin when we were still at the wedding. I know you obviously have it already; on the napkin is my number and my name; don’t call me unless you really are willing to move ahead in our relationship. I don’t need another friend and I don’t need a lover. I am on the verge, after this one month of us being together, of falling in love with you; if I haven’t already. Please don’t waste my love unless you are willing to move forward.”
He started to speak but she put her finger to his lips, replaced it with hers and pulled away. She opened and closed the door.
Max walked down Prospect Park West and found himself in what seemed like the crossroads. To his right was a movie theater and then a circular road with four different exits for him to choose from. Bartel-Pritchard Square was the name of the center of this circle. Named after two friends who both lost their lives in World War I; it served him as a reminder of how fleeting life can be. He stood there as if transfixed and was at odds with the nature of himself. He walked towards the corner and down the stairs of the F train entrance.
He walked through the turnstile after swiping his metrocard several times. It was very rare that it worked on the first swipe. He was sitting waiting for the train, pulled his hand through his hair and knew he made a mess of it. He could still smell her upon him and taste her lipstick on his lips. He did love her; had fallen in love with her after several hours of first words spoken face to face, eyes to eyes. He didn’t know what to do with her – with himself. The train came in to the station sounding like a million hammers hammering simultaneously. The doors opened and he walked into the deserted car, save for a man sleeping with the newspaper blanketing him.
An announcement that the train was now going express with the next stop being Kings Highway. He decided he would visit his grandmother for a cup of coffee and to see her. The train began to move and it picked up speed. It was going really fast now and a sense of panic rushed through him until it began to slow down as it passed Avenue P and rolled it’s normally slow pace into Kings Highway.
TO BE CONTINUED