How I met Lars

It’s about 12 at night on a Monday. I just got off my connecting train at the central station and am heading to a different track, hopefully to the train that will take me home.

I walk down the platform and spot my train. 5 minuets left till it takes off. I take my time and have a smoke. With 2 minuets left I drop the butt and head for the door. Before I can open it, I’m met by a shabby looking homeless guy. He pushes his hand out toward me and asks if I have some change. “Småpenge?” I shake my head. “Nej, unskuld.” (No, I’m sorry). He mumbles something incoherent and pushes the button for us. “beep beep beep.” The door sighs and slides open. I follow after Mr. homeless who is now walking down the train seeking more change. Mostly ignored he shuffles down the isles leaving a trail of open doors and now more apprehensive patrons.

I watch as he asks a man reading a newspaper. The man looks up and shakes his head and before the homeless guy can even offer a “thank you anyway”, the paper is back up. It seems as if he is using the paper as a shield against any prospect of interaction. I’ve seen it before, someone that just wants to be ignored. Someone that doesn’t need one more passé moment to fill their day just so they can feel fulfilled in some sense. Someone that wishes to be left alone unless completely necessary. I can see it, plainly, because it’s a feeling I’ve felt myself, wearing my ear phones connected to a dead ipod. Sometimes it’s just easier that way.

I see it and still decide to sit down, right across from him, in an empty train car to boot. I’m up, it’s late, and I’m in the mood for a bit of a social experiment. He doesn’t even seem to notice, and that’s good, actually it’s great, it is just going to make this all the more fun.

For a while now I’ve had the habit of watching people and I don’t particularly care if they notice because sometimes the reactions are the best part, but I find it far more interesting if the person doesn’t notice and continues acting accordingly, that is, keeps acting honestly. I want to see people for what they really think of themselves and there is no better way to gauge a person’s self-image then how they interact with themselves.

So, constantly using public transportation has presented a great deal of viewing pleasure but also allows me the unique opportunity to go seemingly unnoticed. You see, there are a plethora of windows and reflective surfaces and even when I’m looking directly at a person through a reflection, in say a window, even if they notice me, they think I’m just looking out at the scenery or the passing city. It’s almost too easy.

So there I am, an unsuspecting, nervous, and apprehensive guy sitting across from me. I’m watching him through the window now and he seems pretty engrossed in what he is reading, but I know sooner or later he’s gonna have to notice and this time I’m not going to just watch.

The moment comes when he turns the page and shakes his paper to work out the kinks. I see it, just a momentary widening of the eyes and I know I’m in. I’m still looking out the window, at least in his mind. I see the shield drop ever so slightly and him peek over to give this new passenger a good look. The paper goes up again and I see him look around the train from behind his defenses. He notices the car is empty as well, and I can see his body tense up in the confusion of what is going on. He drops the page once more, but just for a split second, possibly to make sure that I’m really there. He has noticed me looking out the window and I see him look over his left shoulder to see what I’m looking at. When he realizes that nothing is there he turns back towards his paper, but at the moment when he passes my glare in the window he stops. I’m not quite sure if I’ve finally been caught or if he just happens to be looking out the window through my image. Either way, I’m excited and I’m sure it shows in my face. I stick with the stare and wait for a cue to be sure that he knows what I know. He continues the look at my reflection and I can see his eyes studying my face now. His paper begins to drop; the shield has become a secondary concern now that I have circumvented what little defense it truly offered. I know now and I hit my mark.

“Hey man, do I make you nervous or something?”

The guy doesn’t know what hit him, but he doesn’t look afraid. He doesn’t miss his own cue either and doesn’t break the stare that we now both hold.

“No” he replies.

I know that the answer is mostly reaction, so I also know it’s a lie. Truthfully its what I expected. In a strange situation like this most conversation becomes reflex, and this situation has no lack of strangeness. It would have been very odd to watch, to say the least.

“Why you so anxious then? Slap af.”

I try to reassure him I’m no threat but now its becoming odd for me, talking to a double pane of glass, still, the whole occurrence is far too intriguing to let go. I sit back and relax to ease the tension. For some reason I draw my hood, maybe to continue the element of mystery that has been built. By now I’ve broken the marathon stare and have begun to pick at my fingers, scratching off some of the polish that didn’t make it onto my nails. I can tell he is still looking at me through the window. He is desperately trying to digest the situation and I’m just waiting for him to catch up. He finally looks over towards me now but still says nothing. I decided to get him up to speed.

“So?”

I can feel him staring at me. But I think he’s a bit lost for words.

“What? Excuse me?”

I laugh a little; seems like he’s still out to sea so I throw him a lifeline. I reiterate the question once again to put the confusion to rest.

“You really that uneasy? What is it that’s making you so nervous?”

I already know the real answer but I just want to see how far I can take a stranger’s honesty. I already know that it’s me. Shit, I would have been a bit uneasy to find me sitting across from me on an empty train car, staring at me through the window. It is just not normal for people to do, and, if you don’t really know me, I could seem a bit intimidating.

“Actually, yes, it was you.”

Complete honesty was not what I expected, but no answer could have made me happier. I keep looking down as to conceal the grin that is beginning to spread across my face.

“And why is that?”

Now I feel there is no sense in holding anything back. I know we’ve already broken the wall and I’m too excited to see where this will all lead. I just want to know what someone thinks of me.

“Well, you kind of caught me off guard. The car was completely empty except for me and yet you decided to sit right across from me. Also, you do look a little intimidating, plus I did not see you come in or sit down. Truthfully, I thought I was seeing things. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

The last line I could not have written any better myself. It truly was the perfect climax for such an odd occurrence and I’m not going to miss this opportunity with my timing.

I look up, stare him straight in the eyes, grinning like a mad man. I give it to him straight and from the hip, the only way I can.
“And whose to say you aren’t.”

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One Response to “How I met Lars”

  1. Danielle Kasabian Says:

    I thought the sentences were a little too abrupt in the first two paragraphs, but as a whole I really liked this piece. “Wearing my ear phones connected to a dead ipod” – I LOVE that. Well I’m not much of a critic, and I’m not good with words so that’s all you get.

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