The tired girl with the late-night internet habit has been smiling in the mornings. She walks with groups of people and is most often engaged in conversation with nobody in particular. She’s never with the boy from the internet, though. That boy walks about twenty steps behind, sometimes with his lacrosse stick and sometimes with a second backpack carried on his front.
She thought she wanted to speak the words she had only ever typed, but he wouldn’t let her do anything more than smile about his mid-morning snack routine in the hallway. They both love pickles.
The girl ten steps in front of me passes them, too. She has been out of high school for seven years. She can’t remember her teacher’s names and wonders how she will ever be able to relate to her own children if she has already let what seemed so important in high school slip out of her brain. She forgets to breathe when she thinks about it. Her life has changed so much, she thinks.
Her phone is in her hand, headphones in her ears. She won’t be late; her day is full. She listens to music someone else likes and waits for a chime to interrupt the lyrics she will never remember. It doesn’t happen. She doesn’t care to try to not be bothered, but she’s not as transparent as she thinks.
She bumps into a coworker on the train. He reacts to her interest when she asks how that dinner was last night. He has a lot to say. She removes her headphones and smiles along to his response. She has things to say, too. Her coat pockets are empty, but she leaves her cell phone in her hand.