It's a rite of passage for New Yorkers. Everyone I know (especially all my gay male friends) has had at least one missed connection. Mine happened on the F train two summers ago. It was a summer that I looked hot. I was at my thinnest and making a ton of money from collecting unemployment and working an under-the-table bartending job. I spent all my dough on gingham hot pants and matching crop tops. I had a tan and I felt sexy. Also, I decided I really loved Jennifer Egan's writing and I bought every book she ever wrote from BookCourt in Cobble Hill. I was working my through each of them in chronological order and was in the middle of her oeuvre with the novel, Look At Me.
I was reading Look At Me on the F train coming home from work. At the last stop in Manhattan before heading into Brooklyn from the Lower East Side, a tall and lanky, dark-haired man jumped on the train. I say "jumped" because there was a buoyancy in his steps that radiated bubbly-ness. This guy seemed genuinely happy, like he had just gotten a job promotion or something. He plopped down next to me and said, “I'm reading an amazing book. It looks like you are too. Yours was a finalist for the National Book Award.” He reached over and outlined the gold circle on the book with his finger.
Most of the time when people engage in conversation with me on public transportation, they are emotionally unstable anarchists who want to rant about the patriarchy and then try to borrow some money. This guy, however, was wearing vintage wire frames and expensive desert boots. He looked like would be getting out at the York stop, trotting over to his advertising job in DUMBO, where he probably specialized in Ikea commercials. He looked clever, hip, and rich.
I asked him about his book.
We talked about what we were reading for the next four stops, neither of us actually getting back to the books we had in hand. I completely forgot about Jennifer Egan, and how I had been savoring my subway rides because it meant I had an excuse to get back to pleasure-reading. Instead, I was happy to be talking to this stranger.
He was getting out at the Bergen stop, one away from mine. We practically lived in the same neighborhood. I've always wanted a neighborhood boyfriend. Someone that lived so close you could walk over to his apartment and it wouldn't matter if you forgot your contact lenses or started your period early because your own apartment with all your necessities was just down the street.
I really wanted him to ask for my number. He didn't. He said goodbye and got off the train. I turned my head to watch him go and lo and behold he turned back.
The turn back move is single handedly one of the most important romantic signals there is. The moment someone turns back to look at you and you're both caught pinning after each other is movie magic. It can also be tragic when you're staring at the back of someone's head willing them to turn around and they never do. How can you tell if he loves you so? It's not in his kiss, it's in the turnaround.
When he turned around on the subway platform and caught my eye, I added a wink.