“Hey, Kitty,” Will said as he dropped down beside Carmilla on the couch, his added weight making the couch cushions bounce.
She grunted at him, choosing not to look up from her computer.
He kept talking, “You take the Young-Spadina subway every night right?”
“What of it?” she muttered.
“Some girl posted on one of those missing connections websites about a girl she saw on the that subway,” he said, “it’s gotten some traction.”
Carmilla rolled her eyes, “Your point?”
“The girl she’s looking for,” Will said, “sounds like you.”
Carmilla ignored him. She also ignored the email with a link that he sent her a few hours later. After all, what were the chances that it was actually her the writer was looking for. Even more, what were the chances that the message was actually written by the one girl who she could remember from the blur of subway trips.
She ignored it until she couldn’t.
Dear Dark Haired Girl on the Young-Spadina Subway at 6pm
You could not have stepped on to the subway car at a worse time. I was late for work this morning. It was an all around terrible day. Maybe you remember me, probably not. My body was draped with one too many bags of things that I don’t need and I’m never quite sure why i carry them everywhere because they just seem to weight me down.
But i do anyway.
When you walked onto the subway, I was trying to organize my sweaty mess and my too many bags. I’d only gotten on the stop before. You didn’t even give me time to settle in.
But life rarely rings at an opportune moment, so you stepped into the subway car. All black leather and heavy eyes. I can’t say how i noticed your eyes, they were buried in a book.
But i did.
And my heart jumped.
Even as i struggled with my bags i saw your eyes as they flicked over the text, they were dark and deep and fuller than I’d ever expected as you tried to hide them behind long waves of hair. I can’t remember the colour but it was like a thousand lifetimes hid behind them. The words of a hundred different philosophers floating just behind your pupils. Your feet easily navigated the crowd in the car to drop in the seat across from me.
Did you see me? The tiny girl covered in bags who glanced at you once, paused, and then didn’t look again.
How could i look again? I’d seen everything i needed in the first moment. Everything to know that I wanted to talk to you. Just to see. Just to understand. Understand you.
Understand me. I wanted to pop up my head and say anything just to get the chance to know you. To, just once, let the pounding in my chest and hitch my breath turn into something more instead of squishing them back down.
But I didn’t look back up because I didn’t know how.
I still had the backpack to deal with. I couldn’t quite figure out where it was supposed to go in the messy tangle of bags strapped all across my torso.
But my thoughts were on you. Like the line of a book that sits in your soul and buries into your heart even when you’ve closed the last page until you find it popping up at the weirdest moments. Like you’ll just be looking at the pears in the grocery store and suddenly you’ll remember that one line and your knees will sway and the grocery store becomes more than a grocery store for a second.
You were my line in a book. My moment.
You don’t know me. You likely never will, but I’d like to think that somehow I knew you. As though you were a beautiful secret that somehow I was privy to. Perhaps it’s because I keep so many secrets myself. Because the swirl within my head is a mess of words and sounds and pictures that I’m afraid to understand for fear that I won’t like what I find of myself on the other side.
That what I’ll find will be wrong.
Or that I’ll love what I find even though it’s wrong. I’m wrong. That’s what they tell me.
But if I can’t dare to look at the swirl in my own head then I dive into others. And you, you felt like someone I could understand. Who could understand me.
Which scares me.
Because that shouldn’t happen. Line up a thousand people and I’d never pick the girl with the dark leather jacket and the flowing black hair and the finely cut jawline to be the one who could maybe understand the nerdy references and button-up shirts that is me. But I think you would, in that strange way that we can come across strangers on the street and just feel like we know them. How we can share an intimate moment with someone on a bus or a train or a subway and never see them again.
And I wanted to see you again. But I didn’t dare speak up or even smile. I wasn’t going to chance a look. Because I could already feel you curling in my gut and it felt so right but everyone said that this feeling was so wrong.
And I don’t know what the truth is.
So I just rearranged my bags. All my bags. It’s a habit. Switching the purse for the backpack. Messenger bag for the tote.
I dropped the lunch bag.
And you grabbed it. I had my opening, like fate or coincidence or God himself had decided to give me this chance. But it couldn’t be, He would never. They said this was wrong. They said He said that this feeling was wrong.
Yet. The bag bounced to you.
You said “hey” and I forced to look up. It was like dragging my head through concrete, as though anchor had been tied to my neck and it took everything I had to keep it from drowning me.
And there you were. Holding out my lunchbag with the smallest smirk on your face. Nothing sinister, just amusement in your eyes. And something tugged in my gut and I could see myself soaring. Stories talk about how you can drown in someone’s eyes but yours just made me want to fly. Believe I could. Like maybe I could take the anchor and coast on wings that I never knew I had. Or wings that I’d always had but had never been able to use.
Angel or devil. Angel and devil.
As you held the bag towards me the swirls in my head exploded. Clearing into a warzone of new and old. Of taught and learned. Of believed and felt. Of expectations and reality. Of every voice that screamed this was wrong for years and the other voices who said this was right.
That He could still love me even if I loved you.
The thing is that I believe it. I believe those new voices. Intellectually. I do. I want to. That’s all I want. But I don’t know how to act on that belief. On the consequences of my actions. On the slim chance that the loudest voices are right and I’m wrong and how can I take that chance on eternity.
Because what if I’m wrong. What if I’m broken and everything I’m feeling is a trick and a trap and.
And I am afraid.
Those voices have been ringing for so long and so loud that I don’t know how to block them out or move past them and it's so much easier to just stay where I am and stay silent
There is safety in the chaos of my own head and to wade through it and try to disentangle everything into an action, on the hope that I come out better on the other side, seems like so much work as to be almost overwhelming. And I don’t even know where to begin. How to ask for help when even having the courage to ask requires more detangling than I can stomach.
So I took the bag back from you and put it on my lap. Saying nothing and trying not to consider the briefest touch of your finger on my mine. I just hugged the bag tight and stared at my shoes.
You got off two stops later. And I watched you go and I wanted to call out. To rush after you as you stepped out of the subway car. I even stood but my bags were still tangled and as I turned to unwind them the doors closed and we whisked away and you were gone.
And I felt loss for someone I’d never even known.
I rode the subway past my stop. Waiting until it turned around and came back, passing my stop a second time and watching as every face on the train turned into someone new until there was no-one left but me to even remember that you were on the subway that day.
I got off at your station instead. Somehow hoping that you would still be there but having no idea as to what I’d do if you actually were.
But I’d gotten off the subway. Not at my usual stop. At yours. And maybe that’s something.
So I walked home alone, as my bags slowly swayed with every step of my hips and bumped into each other and my legs in a continual sea of scuffling and twirling. And suddenly they seemed so heavy that by the time I was trudging up the steps to my apartment, I was almost suffocating under the weight. The straps cutting into my shoulders to leave bright red marks and twirling around my neck to choke me back.
And I didn’t know what else to do, so I dropped one. The backpack. I left it sitting in the stairwell and entered my apartment and maybe it's still there. There’s a part of me that wants to go running after it. It’s been on my back for so long that I don’t really know what to do without it and people will ask me questions about where it’s gone.
But I don’t think I will.
Because now I’ve written this instead. And I feel a little closer to flying.
Carmilla stared at the words long into the night, fingers hovering over her keyboard. Trying to find a reply.