Envy and rage on the subway

To my right, a beautiful woman in her late 20s. Shiny brown hair; smooth, clear, skin; luscious, pouty lips.

To my left, an intrusive early-20s man.

She’s white, “upper middle class,” familiar to me. He’s caramel-colored, man-spreads aggressively, and glares at me, at my phone, un-self-consciously.

I’m trying to displace the theme to “Bojack Horseman” (“Back in the 90s, I was in a very famous TV show….“) from my ears, listening to “Lovett or Leave It.

He seems angry, annoyed with me. I’m not sure why. I’m taking up less than my allotted space, my headphones aren’t radiating sound, I don’t smell. I’m annoyed with him – his eyes, his legs, are invading my space. After a few minutes, he taps me, and motions with his hands – “Switch places with me?” He has a north London accent.

I’m annoyed, but whatever. I slide over as he stands up and then sits where I’d been, next to the babe to my right. He taps her and starts talking. I assume she’s going to be put off by him. I see nothing redeeming, nothing compelling. He’s not well dressed, not especially attractive, and violating subway rules left and right.

But I’m wrong. They start talking, first about the main de Fatima ring she’s wearing (he wants to know where she got it – again, intrusively, not accepting her vague answers, pushing further), and then, about her work (she teaches) and about where she went to university. She uses the word college. He explains, patronizingly (it sounds to me) the different British meaning of “college.” She knows, but she tolerates it. We pull into a busy station, and she says, “I get off here.” They’ve been talking for a minute. Maybe less.

“You have to give me your Instagram,” he says.

“I do?” she asks.

“Yes,” he says.

I’m sure she’s about to tell him to go fuck himself.

“Ok,” she says. “Can you remember it?”

“I’m sure I can,” he says.

She says the handle to him – it’s her first name and then some numbers. I don’t hear them.

She and I both get off, and I find myself seething, furious, envious, and curious. This just is not something I’ve ever done, ever would do. And yet….

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