The boy, dawdling on the train, on the way to college, staring out the misty window, a small patch cleared to watch the frosty morning float by. Commuters jammed in, all in their own world, disowning the reality of a mundane job in a diffuse world, somehow meaningless, this daily drudge to and from work. What would this day bring? The dreamer lets his thoughts wander off into the distance, life is full of quiet hope. Or is it?
His eyes travel from the world beyond to reflections in the window. Opposite him he can see an open newspaper, broadsheet, the old type. They are sold on the platform by some pikkinin’ shouting Times, Burger at all-and-sundry, he gets a few cents for every paper sold. Once the commuter rush is over he will head to some temporary shelter, under a bridge maybe, sniff some glue. If he is lucky, he will pass out and wake up to a cold morning in time to get his next stack of newspapers. The boy is sad, contemplative, how can we make this world a better place, life is cruel to some. The newspaper seller is unlikely to make it past the age of 20, possibly to go to a better place; there is a god, they say.
His eyes shift to the next person, a smoker, huffing and puffing, blowing rings into the air, smiling to himself as another ring of smoke floats away towards the ceiling. The boy looks up at the people standing at the door, some leaning against pillars, others hanging from straps, swinging a little, avoiding others in their commuter tango. The same people as yesterday, the day before, last week, last year. But wait, in the corner, someone new, someone he has not seen before, staring out the window towards the other side. A pretty girl, he thinks, and before he can look away she turns her head and and smiles shyly at him. He feels his face getting hot, blushing, he looks away and, after a few seconds, looks back. She has also looked away, though the remnants of a smile remain on her lips. They shyly look at each other, the day has changed for both. A few stations along, she shuffles towards the door, gives him a quick smile, the door opens and she is walking down the platform. Where is she going, he thinks, as he stares out of the window again, the train slowly continuing on its journey. Then he sees her, standing on the platform, her eyes searching, then finding him. Their eyes lock, they smile at each other, the day just got better.
The next day, the boy is sitting on the train, same seat as yesterday, the day before and the day before that. Daydreaming, what will the day bring, he looks up and there she is, same place as yesterday, looking out the window. Then, her head turns and she shyly smiles; coyly, he smiles back, feeling himself blushing again. They look at each other, smile, look away; he is not sure what he should do. Nothing will happen unless he has some courage, though he always has visions of being embarrassed, he blushes easily, even his favourite professor knows that; when it comes to girls, the boy has no confidence. They play this game for days, weeks.
Then the boy decides, it’s now or never, and he gets off the train at the girl’s stop. She does not know that he is a few paces behind her, hidden behind the commuter humdrum. She stands in her usual spot, dancing a little, very subtle, just a little nervous. She looks at the passing train and turns her head to see where he is, a frown on her face, has she missed him? Slowly he walks up to her, she glances at him, a puzzled look on her face, then she smiles coyly, so beautiful. He pauses in front of her and blushing, wondering what made him do this, quietly says: “Hi”; she responds with a soft “Hi”. “Can I take you for a coffee, please?”. She looks at him, tears in her eyes, “Sorry, no”. He walks away, embarrassed, what had he done wrong? The boy looks back at the girl, now getting on a train, she smiles at him, teary-eyed. The boy is too embarrassed and decides to start getting an earlier train. They don’t see each other again.
Years later, the boy is walking along a beach, waiting for sunrise. It’s the middle of winter, slightly overcast though mild. He wears a t-shirt, jacket, shorts and flipflops, his uniform on this holiday. The water is cold, he only goes in knee deep, the pensioners go for a swim. He chats to some of them, they come for a bit of social interaction before heading back to the care home. They start telling him stories of their grandchildren and what life was like in the old days, they smile and laugh together. Life is good. The boy walks along the beach towards the rocks on the other side, from there he will see see the sunrise, clouds permitting. He sits on the rocks, looking east, and watches the planes on final approach to the local airport, do they know how nice this place is. Why did I leave, he asks himself, never finding an adequate answer. Behind him, on the footpath people walk by, run by, the boy turns around to say Hello, it’s the way this city’s people taught him. He watches the sun come up, mindful of another beautiful day.
The boy goes to the beach every day, he likes the friendly people walking their dogs; the early walkers are definitely more friendly than the later ones. A few joggers are also running on the beach, a lot better than the road. Some of them greet him, others are very serious, constantly looking at their timepieces. A Hello costs you nothing, my friend, and you get a smile from me, he thinks. He dawdles, looking at shells and washed up dedritus, when a dog walker stops. “You seem to know my friend, Bill”, she says. The boy is a little confused. She elaborates: “He is the older man you talked to yesterday after the swim”. “Oh, yes, nice man”, the boy responds, and they start walking down the beach together. She seems to be quite nice, though the boy is wary; he has a reputation for being a bit of a fruitloop magnet.
They start walking together regularly, mostly in the mornings, sometimes in the evening. They have an easy-going manner with each other, the boy thinks that she likes him, he’s not sure. Every day they discover new things about each other, it’s turning into a wonderful journey. They have both been through some beautiful and traumatic times; there are days when they struggle to be honest with each other. The boy tells her stories from his youth, she responds in kind.
One day the boy tells her about The Girl. When he has finished talking, she looks at him , smiles: “That was you!?”