Part One

It begins simply enough. Lonely strangers standing at the crossroads of life. A shy acknowledgement of shared fate, standing in an airport terminal, a train station, a bus depot. It could be any number of features that sends you down the path. A furtive glance and a wry smile. That realization that you're both just a bit taller than expected of your genders. That cascade of jet black hair that falls just perfectly around her shoulders. The way he holds his briefcase just so. The way she clutches her purse with a ringless hand. And, of course, for the baser among us, the well toned ass, the full breast, both dressed to show off their innate genetic strengths. The symmetry of man and woman, together in this one moment, together in the knowledge that, at least for now, there just might be another person in this world with which you just might be able to to spend your life. Or a few years. Or even just one night. It's the connection that matters. The connection that makes us just a little more than simply animal, even if the purity of it all, the purity of physical attraction is undeniably animal. A connection. It's what we all want. That spark that makes us feel alive.

The dance is always similar. You're of the age where you actively have to look for a wedding ring. That's step one. People have those now, and you see it happening more and more among friends and acquaintances. A quick scan of the outfit and the luggage to pick up whatever you can. Coming or going? Business or pleasure? Short trip or long? Information is gathered and considered. Potential for compatibility weighed purely on speculation. Do you engage? Do you move on? Maybe you see a small child run by, free and smiling, unencumbered by the pressures of the adult world. You smile at each other and remark on how you miss when life used to be that simple and light. You use the mutual recognition to break the ice, make small talk. What brought you here or what brings you where you're going. Visiting family, attending a conference, en route to a cruise in the Caribbean, returning to school for the next semester. Noting that your stop was only one station away from hers, and asking how she likes the area. You fly through these standard late 2o's early 30's topics. Where you went to school. hat you studied. How your job has nothing to do with your career and isn't it funny how these things end up working out. You're just happy to pass the time waiting for the train to arrive, but maybe it' a little more than that. You do your best not to stare at her leg, long and shapely, clad in navy blue stockings as you decide to find two seats together in the station. She crosses her legs demurely, pulling the skirt of her black and white dress down to her knees. You're rapidly depleting your stock of new acquaintance questions, and you both instinctively fill the lull by pulling out smartphones. You don't want to pry, but it's difficult to resist stealing a glance at her screen, looking for more clues, a wallpaper of her embracing some nameless boyfriend that would give you pause. You can see out of the corner of your eye that she is doing the same.

You eyes meet again, this time with a twinge of shame. She blushes, you look away and nervously chuckle to yourself. It's another opening to talk, this time about the omnipresence of smartphones and the internet, and the erosion of social contact without a screen. You talk about social media and its voracious appetite for personal data regurgitating it onto a profile for too many to see. She's clearly intelligent, and the good sort of Northeastern cultural elite intelligence that is bred in cities like Boston and New York that the talking heads on Fox News always hate so much. After exchanging guarded, carefully chosen anecdotes about some embarrassing Facebook related event that humanizes without giving too much away, you finally decide to introduce yourself, extending your hand. She takes it in hers softly, gently, responding with a name in kind. The spark has erupted into a fire at her touch, white hot and raging behind your temples. She smiles again, that killer smile that burrows into the heart of you. Leonard Cohen wrote songs about that smile. Tom Waits, too. You smile back, blushing a bit yourself, and turn away to hide your rosy cheeks. She finds this endearing and caresses your hand with hers. The fire in your temples spreads, engulfing your insides like a backdraft of emotion.

You don't talk anymore. You don't need to. You just sit, your hand in hers, fingers entwined in a knot of flesh, her black nail polish contrasting with the pale white skin. The train arrives in short order, and you board together, hands refusing to let go. Do you risk it? Do you throw caution to the wind and get off the train with her? Do you give in to desire over sense and propriety? The train pulls away from the station, slowly at first before picking up steam, barreling into the future. All you can do is stare out the window at the landscape rushing by, intermittently glancing back at her, marveling in her wonder and contemplating the whims of chance in such a vast world of so many.

There are times that the world can be a beautiful place.