I get off the A train at Fifty-Ninth Street near the newsstand. The station is almost deserted. It’s midday.

      At the opposite end of the platform, near the Fifty-Seventh Street exit, I see a woman standing alone. Maybe she is waiting for the D train. Who knows why people do what they do.

      I pick up a copy of the Times and walk toward her. I look at the paper, play with my iPod. I get closer and she looks familiar. A height and shape I remember, somehow.

      I get closer and the hair reminds me of her. Brown and just to the shoulders, tied in a knot. Closer still and I can see the glasses. Then I am right there and our eyes meet. No doubt about it.

      She holds up a hand and waves to me, weakly. I stop and stare.

      “Hi Mark,” she says.

      That’s it? Hi Mark?

      “Sybil,” I say. I feel nauseous. I want to keep walking. I’m meeting a friend for coffee and a stroll through Central Park. We’re going to watch this crazy guy named Thoth, after the Egyptian God, do some kind of spiritual performance dance. My friend bet me I couldn't stay through the whole thing.

      We do weird bets like this sometimes. The week before I’d bet my friend, a Classics professor, that he couldn’t sit with me for an hour at a sports bar and watch a mixed martial arts tournament. I paid for the beer, but he lost.

      “You look great,” she says. I don’t. I look ten years older and fatter and balder than the last time I saw her. More than halfway to the grave.

      “Yeah, you too,” I say. She doesn’t. She looks gray and mousy. But that’s how it goes.

      “So, how have you been?”

      “Great. Fantastic. Never better.” I smile and convince myself.

      “Work is good?”

      “Ah, I’d complain, but who’d listen?”

      There is an awful, awkward silence. I think maybe that is it and I won’t have to see her again for ten more years. But I’m not so lucky. I clear my throat.

      “So, how’re you?” I manage.

      “Oh, good. Very good.” Her voice is soft, sweet. I’ve missed it. It was there for years of my life, almost every day, and then disappeared. Most things do.

      “Glad to hear it, Sybil.” I run a hand through my thin hair and it comes away slick. I always sweat below ground. My body can’t take the extra couple of degrees.

      “Well,” she says. The D train rattles down the tunnel and she says something but her voice is low. I can’t hear her. I wonder what she wants from me after so many years. She talks urgently, her lips move rapidly, her eyes are intent on something (maybe my bald spot?) but what is she saying?

        I imagine she is saying something like this:

      “I am sorry it didn’t work out. I wish it could have been different. You were the love of my life. I think about you every day.”

      The train is at the platform and she nods. I think she says something about her cats. She grabs my hand and smiles, and I smile back.

      “Sybil, it was so great to see you,” I say. I try to believe it was.

      She gets on her train and rockets away through the tunnel and I am off, up the stairs, to the tourist diner to have some overpriced, weak coffee before seeing Thoth.

       I reach the top of the stairs and, on Fifty-seventh and eighth amidst the snarling traffic and honking and endless sea of tourists, I’m one among millions.

Chris Tuthill works as a librarian in New York. His reviews and articles have appeared in the Green Man Review and
Blitz Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and their two cats, and is a long-suffering Met fan.

On the subway one day I was in a car near two people who seemed to have unexpectedly run into each other. It sounded like they knew each other, but hadn't been in touch for years. They fumbled awkwardly to make conversation.  It was kind of a strange moment and I found myself wondering what kind of past they had. I wrote this thinking of them.



Copyright 2009