by Sam Allard
"Ultimate" meaning both the greatest and the last, because after this inimitable exercise in pining for lost love, no one will ever dare miss a connection again. Arriving mysteriously on Brooklyn's Missed Connection section yesterday evening, this wistful bit of prose is the Craiglist equivalent of that Brazilian word that can't fully be translated into English.
Well that may be, Gawker. That may be.
But! It just so happens that the Brooklyn experience was eeeeeeerily similar to mine, right here in Cleveland, Ohio. I posted my missed connection to Cleveland's own Craigslist, typically home to highbrow love letters on the order of "I love looking at your thongs."
The post is printed in full below:
I saw you on the eastbound Red Line, slipping on at W. 117th — a Lakewood gal? — moments before the muted whir and clunk of the train's closing doors.
I was wearing a yellow short-sleeved button-up and an Indians cap (sans Wahoo). You were wearing a reddish rain jacket and gray jeans. We both wore bags on our shoulders that communicated a reciprocal disregard for hipness for hipness' sake. This I appreciated instantly.
You sat across from me and we made eye contact three straight times. Fumblingly. Fleetingly. I fell in love with you, in that stupid way where you invent a fictional version of the person you're looking at and fall in love with that person, and then forcefully intuit that the fictional version and actual version are one and the same. It's the sort of love that you know is senseless but know also that the knowledge of the senselessness is sort of what makes it pure.
I tried to think of something to say to you — maybe take a gamble and mention this ridiculous Tigers' series? Maybe gesture to your jacket and announce that I had just bought a rain jacket myself, at an outlet mall on my way back from D.C., and I've been loving it. Or just say, "Hot day." It all seemed really pre-packaged and lame for whatever reason.
At one point, I caught you staring at me and you immediately averted your eyes. You pulled a book out of your bag and started reading it — Freakonomics. Freakonomics? In 2013? — but I noticed you never once turned a page.
My stop was Tower City, but as we entered the tunnel I decided to stay on sort of for the hell of it. Plus I got the sneaking suspicious you were playing the same game I was. That tickling pre-conversant foreplay which attends twentysomethings of a certain sensitivity. You must have missed your stop too, because you sure as hell weren't going all the way to Windemere. But we both just sat there in the car, waiting.
I did one of those bashful head cocks where my chin was mostly in my chest, and angled my eyes just so. And you shrugged and crossed your legs and smiled. Smiled!
Still I said nothing.
We took the train all the way back West — through University Circle and the graffitied blight of the Near East Side, back through downtown and over the Cuyahoga which glittered oxymoronically as it slurped to the Lake's embrace, back through Ohio City and Detroit-Shoreway, Westward into Cudell and then Lakewood, through West Park and Brookpark (without a single park in sight) and then onward, chugging along the rocky, steepening grade, to Hopkins. And at the airport, I knew I had to say something.
Instead, we disinterred ourselves, processed up an escalator of terrifying depth and mechanical uncertainty, toward the United desk, where we bought tickets for the first available departure without conferral... Houston. Oily, loud, generic Houston. And suffice to say, Houston didn't impress us. Houston frankly sucked. We promptly returned to Cleveland and waited for the train.
We caught the rush hour crowd and then saw them thin out. We rode out to Windermere and then back to Hopkins again. We watched the sun set over Lake Erie, theatrically, as electric and neon as a TGI Friday's martini. I gave myself deadlines: I'll talk to her before Tri-C; I'll talk to her before Triskett. Still I remained silent.
For months we sat on the Red Line saying nothing to each other. It was really starting to piss me off. We survived on the scattered veggies that had tumbled from the brown paper bags of cross-town gypsies buying produce at the West Side Market. We were acquainted, daily, with pop music's current standards, blasting from the exposed speakers of brightly-colored cell phones.
I'll talk to her before daybreak! I'll talk to her before Wednesday! The longer I waited, the harder it got. What could I possibly say to you now, now that we've passed this same station for the hundred-thousandth goddamn time? I would kick myself after every time you sneezed — why hadn't I said "Bless You"? Why hadn't I searched the depths of my memory for Freakonomics references? Wasn't there something about abortion? About sumo wrestlers?
There were nights when we were the only two souls on the train, when even the driver had abandoned us in the sanctified quiet of those transit bays which feel more like mausoleums than anything else. Even then, I felt self-conscious about bothering you. God knows why. I mean it was pitch black.
Still, there were moments when I felt a connection, where I was certain you wanted me to initiate...something. High schoolers would fight about their precious exes. The loons would weave their tallest tales and you'd listen with great care. It struck me as intimate in, like, a daughterly way. I knew your goodness wasn't something you recognized as extraordinary. Quoth One Direction, "That's what makes you beautiful."
But talkative you most certainly were not. After a point, I would've been content with just your name. I mean for fuck's sake.
We sat in that car for sixty YEARS. And it was cute at first, sure. I think we both had a twinkling suspicion that — bizarre as it felt — we would spend our lives together.
But the goal, excuse me, was not to spend out lives together in the dank, cold, cartridge of an outdated RTA car. Yes? I got to know you really well, but it's not like we ever got to have sex or anything. It's not like we enjoyed even one moment of real emotional intimacy, seeing as we never fucking talked. Do you have siblings, for instance? What's your stance on Quinoa?
I memorized the folds of your body, the contours of your face, the patterns of your breath. And I cannot overstress the exponential growth w/r/t quantity of folds. I saw you age before my very eyes. And I just kept thinking, the ENDURANCE of this woman, this senior citizen woman! Can't we at least rent an apartment or something?
I saw you cry once after you'd glanced at a neighbor's newspaper. I wondered if you were crying about something specific, or just the fact that you'd spent the past 60 years sitting on a train and had more or less come to terms with the type of starvation where your survival is contingent upon very small movements and a piece of unripened fruit every third or fourth day.
I wanted to comfort you, but I too, was incredibly uncomfortable. Recall that I was wearing the same shirt — now literally threadbare — that I had been sixty years ago. There was poop just...everywhere. I'm trying to get across that staying glued to my seat was not, strictly speaking, a sin of commission.
One day, in the middle of the afternoon, you stood up as the train pulled into Tower City, which had naturally become really futuristic as things to become over the course of sixty years. It was difficult for you, this simple task of standing up. YOU HADN'T DONE IT IN SIXTY YEARS. Holding onto the rails, you managed to get yourself to the door. You hesitated briefly there, perhaps waiting for me to say something, giving me one last chance to stop you, but rather than spit out a lifetime of suppressed almost-conversations I said nothing. I think my exact thoughts were: Fuck it, I'm parched.
Anyway, what the hell was I gonna say now? I watched you slip out between the closing doors and accidentally got reflective. I even got a little bit sad, you could say, sitting glumly among the accumulated swamps of my nasty fruit poops. I kept waiting for you to reenter the subway car, sit down next to me, rest your head reasonably close to my shoulder (In boots and protective outerwear, I should hope.)
When the train returned to Tower City, I craned my sore, old-ass neck to see if your crumpled body had expired near a bench someplace. But no, the futuristic robot cops had swiftly removed your corpse (or transported your living enfeebled body to a nearby medical facility.) I realized most likely I would never see you again.
And then I thought about how fucking annoying it is that you can know somebody for sixty years and yet still not really know that person at all.