A Brush with Chance

by Michael Tuberdyke

*

His heart was very heavy, while it beat rapidly in a nervous motion against his chest.  One by one he tied the laces of his shoes.

Outside, the snow in the night fell. It fell slowly and he could make out every individual flake, from his window.  On the porch was a lovely woman, who was bundled up tight and awaiting him.  His mind was filled with thoughts, which made him feel dizzy.  It had been awhile since someone came into his life.  Someone who was exciting.

It was all by chance that Fredrick met Linda.  He had just about given up on the constantly changing world outside.  He laid awake in the cold winter’s night asking questions to himself, that had no real definitive answers.

To him it seemed, he would always be busy, if not physically then more than likely mentally.  Just the previous evening he found himself walking about the city encased in his own thoughts.  On accident he failed to check the marquee and stepped aboard the wrong subway car.

The only other person sitting in the car beside himself was a woman.  He kept seeing her glance over his way out of the corners of his eyes.  When he would stare directly at her she shifted her eyes to the advertisement above his head.

He had never seen her before.  Still, her image looked familiar.  While the train continued to roll onward some unexplainable feeling came to life in his chest.  It caused him to ask a very simple question.

“What?”

The woman looked over at him.

“Did you say something?”

“Yes.  What are you looking at?  I keep seeing you look over this way.”

Realizing she was caught she proved her honesty by not lying.  This does not mean however that she was up front in her response.  Cleverly, she responded,

“You look lost.”

“I got on the wrong train.  I was thinking.  I thought this train was going over to Embankment, not Regents.  I’ll have to get off on Merchants and take the train back north.”

Merchants is my stop,” the woman said very modestly.

They had found common ground.

“Oh.”

The train stopped at the next station, but no one else got on.  The conversation ceased for a moment.  It wasn’t awkward by any means but they both felt something strange within them.  It was a certain tender curiosity which spun a web of wonder between the two.

“What were you thinking about?” She asked, as the train began to move again.

Fredrick smiled. “Nothing really.  Was just reading.”  She glanced at the book in his lap he had put down.  Kohelet was written in bold type on the cover.

“What’s that?”

Fredrick smiled but didn’t say anything.

They arrived at another stop.  Again, no one got on.  It was very late and the winter generally kept everyone inside.  At this station he moved closer to the woman.

“Do you mind if I sit here?”

“Seats taken,” she said with a smile.

Fredrick took the seat beside her.  They brushed elbows for a moment, which made them both apologize for no reason whatsoever.  Fredrick then made a joke that had very little humor in it, but she laughed at it anyway.

“You’re a deep thinker, aren’t you?”  She smiled slightly.

Fredrick paused, “I just find myself always starting over.”

With confidence built from experience she responded, “That’s good though.  Everything works in circles.”

“Right, but, I’m just never satisfied.  I want to go somewhere, somewhere else.  When I do get somewhere else, even mentally, it’s just not good enough.”

“Well, where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know.  Anywhere, I guess.  It’s like this.  I have today, — well, today is gone, but I have tonight and all these minutes. How do I fill them before tomorrow turns to today again?”

She began to laugh unapologetically.  “If you think like that how do you even sleep at night?”

“I don’t,” he let go of a quick smirk.

“Life’s for livin’.  It’s easy.”

“Maybe, I don’t know.”

The train stopped.  She smiled.

“No one does.  If someone tells you they know something they’re probably lying.  This is our stop let’s go.”

They gathered their belongings and walked very slowly together side by side. The pathway in the tunnel split in two.  One lead to the escalators going over to Merchants while the other hall led to the Northbound train.

“Well, it was nice talking to you.”

“Yeah,” There was some resistance in her voice.

“What is it?”

“Nothing, –it’s just, wait.  Here.”

She took out a pen and a very small journalistic style notepad.  She scribbled down her name and telephone number.  Tearing the piece of paper out she handed it over to Fredrick, who examined it and her name, Linda.  A little embarrassed that he didn’t introduce himself earlier he took the opportunity to do so now.  They both laughed and realized neither of them were strangers anymore.

“Call me sometime.  You seem interesting.  Maybe we can get some coffee or something.”

“Sure.  I have been real busy lately, but, that does sound nice.  I haven’t gone out in a while.”

“It’s good to, every now and again.”

He thought about that for a moment.

“Have a good night.”

“You as well.”

That train ride home alone that night after his quick meeting was very long.  “What do I have to do this week?” He asked himself.  “Nothing, I suppose.  My errands never stop, they only halt for a few days.”

After that conclusion he began to feel excited.  He hadn’t felt this feeling in so long.  He wanted to race out of the train car and head straight to the nearest telephone.  He cursed his idiocy for forgetting his phone tonight.  In the reflection of the glass he caught himself smiling.

When he got off the train, he rushed home and called her.

“Hello,” his voice seemed to explode.

There was laughter from the other side.

“Oh, hello.  How was the train?”

“It felt like an eternity.  I’m tired of commuting.”

“Yeah, it’s a bit much.”

There was a pause on the phone between lines.

“Well, I was just, –um, wondering…if you would like to get some coffee or something tomorrow?”

“I thought you were busy?”  She asked jokingly.

“Well,  I’uh, rearranged some things.”

“I’d love to.”

He told her his address and they set up a time to meet.  They said goodbye to one another.

Fredrick then turned on the lights to his apartment and took a seat in a chair that faced the quiet sleeping street.  The snow was falling gently and as the minutes passed his eyes slowly began to shut.  “Tomorrow, will come,” he thought.

The next day time dragged along with added little hints of excitement. Fredrick found himself eager for the evening to come. Nearly a million thoughts floated freely in his head and then were let go.  He couldn’t hang onto anything for too long.

He kept busy cleaning up his house, doing little things to make the day go by.  Soon enough it was night.  Precisely on time,  if not a bit early,  he heard his doorbell ring.  He sprinted to the monitor.

“Hey, it’s Linda. I’m downstairs.”

After putting on his boots and jacket he walked down the four flights of stairs.  She was there waiting for him on the steps.

“Where would you like to go?”

She asked eagerly with her very long pea coat on.  He couldn’t see the outfit she was wearing, nor would he know how many outfits she had tried on before finding the right one.

“There is a small café, just up the road.  It has very good pastries.”

“How’s the coffee?”

“It’s very strong.”

They walked close together in the falling snow.  Each one shared the story of their day before they dove deeper into their lives.  They found they had both a lot in common as their feet moved forward.

She mentioned that she was cold.  In an instant, her face lit up, when Fredrick wrapped his scarf around her neck. With her, he saw something, not in her, but because of her, the world seemed different.

He saw the icicles glimmer in the radiant streetlamps in which they walked under.  He saw each individual snowflake fall from the sky and land gently along the ground.  Then something else occurred to him.  He was full of life and his mind stopped trampling along like god’s when he realized just how deep the sky was and how bright a star could be.

For he remembered at that moment, her hand resting alongside his, within the pocket of his jacket.  It was then, that everything seemed to dissolve, and the two began to promise each other the world.

*

Michael Tuberdyke is the author of the novels, The Pharaohs and The River May Run.

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