You dropped your banana peel back there.
She pulled her headphone out and pivoted to face her accuser.
It’s biodegradable, she snapped back.
Was he another asshole environmentalist or was that his opening line? She raised an eyebrow.
His name was Darren and he had a sleeve tattoo on his right arm. Flowers shaded with pink and green and orange wound around his forearm, black geometric lines criss-crossed the smooth underside of his wrist. He always wore khakis and crisp pressed button-up shirts and rolled up his sleeves when the sun was out.
They both rode the 12 bus in the mornings to work and both stepped off at the same stop. She would cross in front of him or he in front of her and enter separate doors into separate buildings on separate sides of the street. She knew his name because he was the only one who took calls on the crowded bus. Hello, this is Darren, he would say.
She had never noticed his eyes before that Monday. They were blue and friendly, the kind that you didn’t want to gaze too long into because they reminded you to feel. And today, instead of passing each other by in their worlds separated by headphones and a street, he scooped up her discarded banana peel and walked it to the trash.
He laughed. He had a nice laugh, like waves crashing and sunshine. The kind of laugh you’d hear in a Coca Cola commercial. She tucked her hair behind her ear and resisted the urge to touch his.
Where do you work? I’ll walk with you.
She motioned to her building with a wave of her hand and cacophony of bangles. She had just moved here, just gotten a job churning out fitness articles about juice cleanses and spin classes and The Hottest Mesh Leggings for Your Body Type for a media company. But she liked her job enough and it paid her just enough to share a place with three other roommates in a not-too-dangerous part of the city. They lived over a Burmese restaurant and their neighbors were Indian and sometimes shared their curry. She hated curry but ate it anyway when her credit card bills got too high.
She didn’t tell Darren any of this. Her imagined deep conversation with him drifted on behind her eyes.
I write for a website. Just across the street, there. You?
You look like a writer.
I do? And what does a writer look like.
He crossed his arms and scanned her head to toe: leather leggings, denim tunic, black booties. Hair knotted half up on top of her head. He stepped closer.
You. And right now you look like you could use a drink.
It was her turn to laugh this time, the nervous kind of chuckles that emerge when one is unsure of what to say. Her eyes were tired and probably still puffy and red from last night’s tears.
It’s like nine am.
He laughed again and she wished she was funny so she could hear the waves break over and over again. So she could live inside the technicolor Coke commercial at least for thirty more seconds. But when she blinked her eyes closed all she could see were J’s big hands reaching for hers. Horns honked at the intersection and a woman hurrying in high heels and a blazer bumped her shoulder.
I need to go to work, sorry.
Tonight. Meet me here at 6? He hooked his thumb at the door behind him.
Is this where you work?
Yea. There’s a great happy hour around the corner. Ever been to Chester’s?
She shook her head.
Great. Six it is. Have a good day, writer girl.
It wasn’t until they walked away from each other that she realized she never even told him her name.
We pretended to love each other during the day. But at the end of each night, my head hit the pillow alone — heart pounding yet empty, skin electric yet cold.
I would fall asleep to your scent on my sheets, burying my face in the delicious haze of sweat and Old Spice and freshly washed laundry. But when I rolled away from the grips of a dream I half-expected you to catch my arm in the pre-dawn darkness and pull me closer. But you weren’t there.
Day 2: As part of my office’s #100DayChallenge Creative Project, I am committing to writing at least one page of fiction per day for 100 days. Watch the story unfold here, day-by-day.