Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Story of the Subway Flirt

Quote of the blog:

Brook: “Holding Out for a Hero” is my theme-song.

Justin: “ order to attract a hero, you may not want to openly admit that.”


The story of the Subway Flirt happened two summers ago but I think about it often. Sometimes I’m amazed at how much life can change with just one choice. One decision has the potential to change your entire life, character, experience, everything.

The Story of the Subway Flirt:

The First Encounter:

One morning, two summers ago I was on the train to work. I felt good: I had just gotten back from a month-long vacation with friends and I had started my study abroad job earlier that week. Also, I was in a new outfit and felt cute. Life was good. I stood in the middle of the train (no seats to be had) when I noticed a tall, well-dressed, handsome fellow standing by the doors looking at me. He gave me a smile and I smiled back. Next thing I know, he walked over and stood next to me. Typically, this is where I get awkward and don’t know what to do. I can be pretty oblivious (see blog entry “Wait, was that guy hitting on me?”). I had my earphones in and was checking out an album my friend gave me (matt pond PA, Last Light). I didn’t want to turn off my iPod but wanted to give the guy a chance to flirt if that indeed was what he walked over to do.

After a moment of contemplating, “WWAFD?: What would a flirt do?” I pulled out an earbud, smiled at him, and asked him if he knew the time (nevermind the fact that I could have pulled out my iPod to check myself). Well, we ended up talking the whole way to work. He told me about his job at Columbia, his PhD program at NYU, etc. etc. He got off one subway stop before my stop and smiles over his shoulder at me as he walked up the stairs. My heart smiled. It was a good day.

3 Weeks Later:

Three weeks later, I was on the way home and saw a guy at the opposite end of the train looking at me. He was taller than most and was smiling at me over a sea of heads. I realized it was my Subway Flirt. He mouthed something and I smiled and shook my head to let him know I didn’t understand what he said. Well, next thing I know we were properly winding our way through the crush of people to meet in the middle of the train car. We talked the half hour to our stop. That's right our stop. HIS stop is MY stop. We started walking down the street together and kept talking. I found out he likes dogs, plays in a band, etc. I told him I had been practicing the guitar and he offered to give me guitar lessons. I thought that sounded like a great idea. He was engaging but not overly confident. I was charming.

We got to the main intersection and he smiled at me like he wants to say something. I thought he was going to ask for my number. I mean, he did offer to teach me to play the guitar but I wasn't just going to offer my number. So, I waited for a moment, then said, "Well, this is where I go this way." I pointed South.

Him: "Oh, this is where I go that way." He pointed East but didn't move.

Then there was this long full pause.

Me: "Well, maybe I'll see you again on the subway sometime."

Him: "That would be really nice!"


Me: "Ok, well, have a good day."


He looked like he was going to say something but didn't. I waited just another instant then flashed a smile, turned and walked away, glanced over my shoulder – he was still standing there. I smiled again and kept walking. Then I went home and checked out his band on MySpace.

2 Weeks Later:

I looked for him every morning on the train but the odds of being on the same train and the same car aren’t great in The City. One evening I got on the train after work to go visit a friend. I passed the Columbia University stop at 116th which is where the Subway Flirt would get on, but he didn’t. At 137th I glanced up to see him get on my car and walk right up to me. He smiled and told me he got on at 116th but saw me and switched cars. He saw me and switched cars! I was flattered. I was meeting a friend at the next stop so our conversation was just a couple of minutes.

One Week Later

One week later I decided to do some cyber-stalking. I typed his name into the Columbia website (he also told me which department he worked in) and up pops his email. It was that easy. I polled my coworkers: should I email him? Should I not? With their encouragement: "who knows when you will see him again" and "he would have asked for your number if you hadn't gotten off the train at the next stop!" I decided to email him. My coworkers, and even some friends on gchat, were rooting me on.

The email:


I hope you don't mind that I got your email off the Columbia website. I thought I would take you up on that guitar lesson. Maybe this time we can meet somewhere other than the subway. Unless you want to try some panhandling.

Brook (the girl from the 1 train)"

Well, an hour later I got a response! He says that he is always up for some panhandling and would like to meet on the first car of the 1 train right after 5:00 pm. But I couldn’t! I already had plans! I told him I couldn’t that night but maybe the next would work. He emailed back ten minutes later. "I have a meeting at 3:00 but am open until then. Can you sneak out for 20-30 minutes?" Yes. Yes I can. I touched up my makeup, checked my hair, and went down to meet destiny.

So, we met. It was nice outside and we walked by the park and down by the Hudson River. We talked about this and that. Then he looked at me and kind of stopped. He said that we had a great vibe and a connection and he said how he is attracted he was to me. He said that he would love to teach me how to play the guitar. I was full of smiles. Then he said he felt like I should know up front that he is…


Yes, that's right. Married. What the what!?

Me: "Um, you're married? I feel somewhat foolish."

He assured me that I shouldn't feel foolish and indicated that guitar lessons would work best at my place. WHAT?? I asked him how long he’d been married. He said 7 years (he was 35).

I said, “Are you happy?”

He looked at me and said, "When you get married you will understand. It is really, really hard."

I looked back at him and said, "I don't doubt that at all. But it seems like the things that can make us the happiest are the things we have to work at the hardest."

He got quiet for a moment (at this point I had started walking back in the direction of work)...and he responded with a low, "Well said."

We get to the corner and he encouraged me to at least go for a cup of coffee. I declined.

As I walked back to my office I realized how glad I was he said something up front! He hadn't worn a ring and had he decided not to say anything and invite me to do something after work some night I would have gone. What was so surprising is how surprised he looked when he realized I was NOT ok with the situation. I don’t know. It blew my mind that an affair could be arranged casually on a four-block walk to the river. I thought, “It ‘s that easy.” If I were just a bit of a different person, if my values were just a bit different, or my resolve, or anything it could have been a completely different scenario.

I got to my office and thought again about how lucky I was that he said something. I sent him an email saying that I appreciated him letting me know he was married up front. He sent me reply almost instantly back saying that if I “ever wanted to do lunch in the park in the Spring to just let him know. It's lovely that time of year.” I didn't reply, but perhaps I should have, I could have told him to take his wife. A friend told me that when he confessed about being married I should have said, "You may not have any respect for your marriage, but I do." Those comments always come to me (via myself or my friends) after the appropriate moment. Until then, I'll keep it in my mental file of vicious rhetoric.


  1. I love this story and I'll tell you why: he is right. I didn't understand before I got married how hard it would be.

    You are also right. I am, despite - or perhaps because of - the difficulties and the effort required, incredibly happy.

    I am, however, under no illusion that being with any one else would make my marriage in any way easier or better or make me happier. My husband is incredibly loving and caring and I pray every day that we will be happy together for a very long time.

    However, it is important to know that the things that make my relationship most fulfilling are actually the things I learned while I was single. I spent a decade learning to love myself more. I learned to communicate better, learned to compromise and to stand up for myself, I learned how to trust the Lord, be a compassionate and polite person, and replace anger with understanding. These are the things that make my marriage work well. They are also the things that are most difficult to employ day in and day out. If I ever convinced myself that I wouldn't need these skills - with all the patience and work they entail - if I let go of my commitment to my husband and replaced it with a commitment to my own laziness or selfishness then I hope that someone else would retrieve the respect that I had lost and follow your example from this story.

  2. What you said was perfect, it wasn't a message to make him feel guilty it was a message of how he should love his marriage.
    I think if you had said something like "you may not have respect for our marriage but I do," he may have seen you like his mother and not listened (though it is a good line).
    I have several friends who are married and have someone on the side the spouse knows about it and everyone is okay with the situation, but really how long can that go on?
    I can't imagine a relationship like that.

  3. I love and hate that story! Sheesh. What does it take????? I can't wait for the next single subway flirt.

  4. It's interesting to me to think about the process he must have been going through. I'm sure he got a little ego trip from harmless flirtation with a pretty stranger; everyone, in a relationship or not, does. But when you sent him the email and he decided to get a little something something going, had he been planning that from the beginning?

    People are funny.

  5. It is interesting for sure. I could totally be wrong - but planning the guitar lessons to the follow up "picnic in the park" email makes me think he knew what he was doing the whole time...

  6. This story makes me judge less "the other woman", too. Maybe some of them really DON'T know that they are the other woman and are as innocent as the wife.
    You already know I'm fascinated by this story. I'm glad you wrote it down.