He was tired, bored, restless: watching the scenery roll by outside the train.
The leaves were falling, would be touching the car were it not moving so fast. The ride from the City to Philly was the best part of the day, a holy time. His time. He was trying to read the latest Grisham novel, but things kept intruding.
The leaves mesmerizing, swirled and drifted across the fields. He set the book down on the sun-warmed seat and rubbed his eyes.
The woman. She had caught his eyes as she walked by, her face placid, with only a tiny hint of a smile, and she nodded to him. He had seen her before. Recently. It had been on the street. Or at the restaurant during lunch, the woman at the next table which reminded him of Susan Sarandon. It was her hair, the unique mélange of colors – reds and yellows, orange and brown, the leaves falling across her shoulders.
Yeah, it was her. She had walked past him into the club car. Without thought really, he left the book and followed her.
He never did this, never had. He had only ever loved the one woman, a girl he met while trying to wrap his head around linguistic theory his junior year at college. And he had been afraid to talk to her – she was too smart and too pretty and he was just plain and average. And had she not approached him, they would never been anything more than classmates.
But now she was gone. And when she left, she took with her his life. He was alone, afraid.
And now, he was drawn to the colors of the fall, this woman, this vision from lunch, this image so absently burned into his soul in such a brief time. This stranger, this friend who had smiled at him so innocently as she passed by.
He went to her, sat down and caught her eyes. They took his breath away. “I think I had lunch with Susan Sarandon at a restaurant in Little Italy today.” And waited.
“You think? I rather think you would know that,” she said without moving her eyes from the window, sipping her coffee.
“Not much of an opening line, huh?”
“One uniqueness alone, I’d give it an 8.5.”
“That all? I thought it was quite the line. Beat ‘what’s a nice girl like you. . .’”
“Ok. OK, fine. 9. But no more. Well, did you?”
“Did I what?”
“Lunch with Susan Sarandon?”
“Haven’t decided just yet,” he said and looked out the window.
The car was full and getting rowdy. It always was on Friday afternoons: people heading back home after a week in the City, trying to forget the problems and issues of their work- filled weeks, trying not to think of the problems and issues of their home lives.
He asked the bartended for a Ginger Ale and said to her, “ My name is William.”
“Not ‘Bill or Billy or Mac or Buddy’?”
He laughed. “Sheryl Crow, right? Fun song.”
“Yeah. It is. Oh, I’m Eve. So, you live in Philly, or going to visit?”
“Not Philly. Well, Melrose Park. So more or less Philly. I work in Midtown.” Gees, he said to himself: calm down.
“Quite the commute.”
“Yeah. But I tried living in the City for awhile and it was fun, but eventually got on my nerves. And the express train isn’t so bad. How about you?” The real problem, which he didn’t want Eve to know, was she, the other, the one who left, lived in the City, and it was just better for him to be away.
“Lex and 43rd. I work in Tribeca.”
The train crossed a bridge and everything rattled, the ice in his glass tinkling, some of the liquid spilling over the top.
“You’d best drink that down a bit,” she said.
It was more her eyes than hair. Wide set, and open. Bette Davis eyes, they said. Inescapable, unable to hide from. Mesmerizing eyes. Eyes that draw in an audience and entrap them. He had never really watched Betty Davis movies, but Sarandon’s eyes had that effect on him in “The Great Waldo Pepper”. And “Rocky Horror” and “Bull Durham” and, well, all of her movies, really. He had found he had to see her movies at least twice, sometimes three or more times to unfold himself from her eyes and really understand the movie. But “Susan Sarandon eyes” didn’t have quite the same ring to it.
And Eve had them – Susan’s or Betty’s, whatever, whosever’s they were. He had been talking to her for half an hour when the train pulled into the station and his gaze had never strayed below the neck. It wasn’t he was prudish or didn’t appreciate the below-neck attributes of a woman, it was just, well, he was trapped in her eyes.
She stood up – she was wearing a beautiful slim-cut azure dress – and whispered, “ I’m walking to Center City. Wanna go with?”
He watched as she left the car, unsettled. Still lost in her eyes. He ran out of the car, trying to find and follow the falling leaves of her hair and the blue dress he had just barely glimpsed. “Dammit Janet,” he said to himself, and leaving the book on the seat hurried after her.