I met a cute boy on the train.
Taking the train back home from work, I was talking with my sister on Skype. She was in Chicago, an hour ahead, and had already started cooking dinner. She told me about her day as I watched her move around her kitchen, knives moving up and down, water boiling on the stove.
Christa had to go and we said our I love yous, when I looked down the train car and saw a cute boy I’d never seen before. He was reading an old paperback, black background and a familiar crest on top of it. I remembered the book and felt excitement at seeing this, the re-birth of the novel, happening right in front of me.
The boy looked to be in his late twenties, early thirties. He had on a plain gray jacket over a green sweater. A book in one hand, a small backpack behind his legs, he sat there and read for a while.
He got off at the Trail Street exit, two stops before my usual station, but I followed him. We walked through the station, me trailing the boy by about ten meters. He was quick, but finally slowed down enough at the station exit for me to catch up.
“Hi, I’m Lena.”
“Mark.” He extended an arm and I shook it in return.
“Enjoying the book?”
“Good so far. The digital currency bit is interesting, think the author would enjoy attending a lecture by Alderman.”
“You had him as a teacher?” The boy nodded. “Me too!” I pulled my backpack around and showed the orange-and-blue pin, the emblazoned column on it worn away over time, the colors fading.
We reminisced about the above-world campus and our experiences there. Mark majored in bio-chemistry and came back to Saint Florian two years ago. I was two years ahead of him, but we didn’t see each other on campus. We talked about the sci-fi book he was reading. Then he had to go home, his wife was waiting.
I thought of getting back on the train but decided to walk home. It was a warm night and I took my time, looping around the neighborhoods, avoiding the popular roads, walked through Fossil Park, stopped by the lake and tossed pebbles into it. Circular waves rippled through the peaceful water. Thought about the countless walks in rural Illinois, the star fields above and the pure pleasure of lying on the grass and watching the stars twinkle. Looked up and it was the same view, supposedly, the same stars I would have seen years back, but I could tell the difference. The projectors were not good enough, not once you’d seen the real thing.
Mark texted me before I got home, said that his wife was heading topside for a week and would I be interested in a drink. I ran to my unit, quickly changed out of my work clothes, set out some more food for Chumley, and was out before Gene noticed. I noticed him working over a holo game set, the red of his army a familiar glow in our living space.
Be back late, I texted while walking to the closest station.
Love you too, he responded.
I asked Mark which elevator his wife would be taking up. She was leaving through Edwardsburg, which had a reasonable bar topside, so that’s what we went with.
I met them at the Eds Base twenty minutes before the transport left and we exchanged our brief life stories. Mark met Clarice in college and the two married last year. She was on vacation from the atmospheric controls, heading up to spend a week with her parents in Florida. Mark was on-call at a local IT firm and couldn’t stray too far from home.
I asked about tonight’s excursion topside.
“Don’t worry, I can do my job drunk.”
“He often does,” Clarice added. I like them.