It started with vomit. Projectile vomiting, actually. And not the kind that happens in the Lower East Side at 4 a.m. but the kind that happens unexpectedly and without provocation in the form of eight whisky sours. No, this vomit rocket took the shape of a young girl, wearing a backpack and sitting next to her mother.
“Oh, no. Oh, no.”
Jill turned when she heard the splatter hit the floor of the L Train.
James saw the whole thing happen, having unfortunately chosen to stand right in front of the kid. He looked down at his shoes, making sure that the strategically distressed and aged leather was untainted; scuffs and tears were okay, but throw up was another beast entirely.
Jill watched as James moved towards her. She thought she might have seen him before, but maybe it was just that haircut that was so familiar. She’d been seeing that one a lot lately. Their eyes met briefly and shared an accidental wink and a nod about what they had just seen. And then they continued to not look at each other, as people in the subway so often do, holding the rails and feeling the shuddering sway of the train on the tracks.
Together, they watched as a second bout of illness quickly came, the young girl now standing on her feet and completely at the whim of her fickle stomach. “Oh, no. Oh, no.” Politeness being a dangerous road to tread at this point, most everyone parted ways to create a large circle of space around the kid, like an unwelcome dance floor.
Again, the two caught eyes. Again, the accidental acknowledgement.
First Avenue arrived and the two made their way for another train. With everyone from the last car in this new one, the boy and girl were forced to stand more closely to one another. Jill flashed her iPod James’ direction, angled casually to minimize the glare, hopping that he might see her Belle and Sebastian remixed cover on display. She peeked up just in time to see his eyes moving away from her screen and down to her black boots.
“Madewell?” he asked, though the question was more the assumption of someone who shopped often and knew the minutia of marked designer characteristics – stitching, leather quality, and other trappings of the post-heterosexual days.
“Lanvin,” she countered, immediately following with a self-deprecating apology for having purchased such a grossly expensive item, separating herself from the real artists. She couldn’t help that her parents came from money, could she?
James nodded his head in a nonjudgmental manner and placed his headphones back on. She did the same, though she didn’t press play yet. Instead, she listened to the thumping baseline of her new favorite song play loudly into his ears – the one by that guy who lives in a loft somewhere in Bushwick, you know, the one that sounds like all those other ones with, like, the reverb and stuff. Her song was on his iPod.
She turned her face away. He looked over, swearing he caught a wave of blush cross her cheeks. But then again, it was getting cold outside.
Third Avenue arrived and he departed, off to work a retail gig for a brand that had perfected the art of skinny jeans for boys. You know, that one. Jill watched through the dirty glass windows and he disappeared, noting that she hadn’t realized until just now that they were wearing the very same plaid shirt.