As a single person, I’m sometimes given advice by concerned and partnered peers on how to land myself in a relationship. Dating apps! Bars! Bookstores! Their guidance is well-intended and would possibly be helpful if I didn’t already know exactly where to find love: the train. I’ve fallen in love on almost every subway ride I’ve ever taken.
For those in the 1% who’ve never ridden the subway or who live in rural or suburban parts of the country where you’re required to own a car, let me explain train love. Train love is patient, train love is kind. Train love doesn’t last for longer than maybe 25 minutes. You fall in train love on your commute to work. It’s 8 AM and you’re looking the best you’ll look all day because you just brushed your teeth and combed your hair and things couldn’t have changed for the worse that much since leaving your house. The day is young, too. Unless the president has tweeted something about little Reba McEntire ruining KFC for him, not much has happened to extinguish your sense of hope.
You board the train with dozens of other people, none of whom necessarily catch your eye and manage to find a seat between someone who is definitely asleep and someone who is emanating the nervous energy of a person who’s never slept before. Spotify just shuffled to Fleetwood Mac’s “You Make Loving Fun” as you pull into the next stop. Doors open. People shuffle in. There he is. Your train husband. He sits down across from you. A sign? Yes.
He’s dressed so nicely—maybe he works as a creative director? Or perhaps he’s a scientist with a good sense of style. There are scientists in New York City, right? Is that a dumb question? Whatever. You two will laugh and laugh and laugh at your naivety. Isn’t it funny you thought there weren’t scientists in New York City and now you’re engaged to be married to a Manhattanite scientist? Train love is funny that way.
Should you ever speak to your train loves? Unfortunately, no. But that isn’t a bad thing. The deep foundation of your love is that you don’t know what they are like. Or what their voice sounds like. You can only assume they had their voice stolen by a witch and are thus condemned to solely communicate through slight eye contact and reading books that make them seem like they’d be good at making out. And you know what? That actually works for your relationship, so who is anyone else to judge? You two are in love. Nothing can break you up.
Wait, no. I spoke too soon. One thing will break you up. Time. Time is the bane of all train relationships. Inevitably, one of you will reach your stop, unless of course your train spouse is a tunnel dweller or MTA employee. But most likely one of you will have to get off and go to work. When this happens, take a moment to honor the relationship in your mind. Mourn it as you see fit in the seconds between the train slowing down and the doors opening. Then get up and leave. Do a double take back to the train if you need one last glance. Finally, do as the best train lovers do, and recite Neruda: If suddenly you forget me do not look for me, for I shall already have forgotten you.
Re-enter the world above. Buy a croissant from a street vendor. Catch a glimpse of yourself in the dented metal of the food cart. Hey, you do look good; you will get past this. And look on the bright side: there's always the train ride home.