I sat on the Red Line, my legs crouched up on the seat, sunglasses resting on top of my head. My back rested on the metal next to the end-chair and the germ infested hand bar. While seemingly uncomfortable, I was quite cozy with a book in hand.
The loud noise of the train made it hard for me to hear the Ed Sheeran playlist that played through my worn-out headphones, and each stop I looked up to ensure I didn’t miss my own. The T today wasn’t so bad. I was enjoying the silent vacancy of my train car.
“Next stop, Downtown Crossing.”
The train came to a screeching halt, and the empty car began to fill. I was no longer one of 3 others. I removed my backpack from the seat next to me, placed my legs back down on the ground. I had quickly lost interest in my book, my focus shifted onto the strangers than had began to fill the seats.
I looked to my right, a young couple in their mid 20’s sat down. The man had a long beard, the woman wore hiking boots with her hair tied back in a tight bun. She fondled his ear, whispering something that I probably didn’t want to hear, followed by silent laughter. My stomach turned and I looked across from me. A couple with scraggly hair, both wearing purple sweatshirts and ripped jeans. Her legs were sprawled over his lap while his arm rested around her back, desperately attempting to cuddle on the small metal chairs of the Red Line.
Gross. I thought to myself.
Next to the purple sweatshirt couple sat yet…another couple. They held hands, both dressed in business attire. I imagined they were the type of couple to leave their separate offices to meet up for lunch dates on the park outside of South Station (probably bought from one of the 100 food trucks). His hand rested on her lap, low-key PDA however it still screamed “She’s mine.”
“So, are you single?” I heard.
I didn’t know where the voice came from, as the train was quite populated by the time we reached Park St. I looked up from my seat and saw a man staring down at me. He had slick backed hair with an expensive looking suit. His leather briefcase brushed up against my leg as I glanced up at him. I took my headphones out and said, “Sorry, what?” even though I had totally heard his question.
“I can’t help but notice that you’re looking at all of these couples. So, I’m just assuming that you’re single.”
I was taken aback by this statement, unsure of how to react. Was he insulting me? Was he hitting on me? Or was he simply making an observation that was totally on point? I felt awkward, and I could feel my face turning red.
“Haha, um, ya I’m single,” I replied.
“Me too, and staring at these other couples is making me feel way more single than usual,” he laughed.
I had to agree. I’m content with being single, and I have enjoyed the freedoms that come along with being alone this past year. However, staring at all of these happy couples made me question if I actually enjoy being single or I just try to convince myself to avoid the emotional turmoil that comes with the feeling of loneliness.
This man told me his name, and we chatted for the rest of our T ride. He told me how much he truly hated PDA on public transport and basically snarked at the couples who were participating in it. I respectfully nodded, although it didn’t bother me all too much. I was suddenly curious about his relationship past.
“Did you just get dumped or something?” It came out like word vomit.
“Haha, um, yeah…How can you tell?”
“You seem to be a little bitter,” I inquired.
So here we were, two single people on a relationship-infested train car chatting about our dysfunctional love lives. It was oddly comforting venting to a complete stranger, and I could tell he felt the same. We were both surrounded by reminders of past lovers, and confiding in each other made it easier to cope with the fact that we were most certainly the minority on the Red Line that Saturday afternoon.
The train arrived at my stop, and I stood up and said, “Well, this is my stop. It was really nice meeting you, good luck with everything,” followed by a flirty smile.
“You too, Beth. Just keep in mind–someday you’ll be one of the couples on this train, I promise.”
I left the T and began the walk to work. I had never considered myself “bitter” to happy couples. Cute Instagram posts don’t make me cringe, and seeing a kiss goodbye on the street doesn’t make my skin crawl. My dysfunctional love life makes for great blog posts, and going on dates with different guys is exciting. I like being single. But, do I want to be in a relationship? I’m not sure. I hadn’t really thought about it until that Saturday afternoon on the T.
When we see reminders of what we used to be someone, it’s natural to feel bitter. It’s natural to wonder when it’s going to be you, when you’ll be worth it enough to someone. It’s natural to wonder if you genuinely love being single, or if your forced to deal with it because you don’t have any other choice but to accept it.
I don’t know if I’m ready to be one of those couples on the T, I don’t know if I’m ready for lunch dates at South Station or public transportation PDA. Perhaps I’m too selfish to settle at the moment, or perhaps I’m just avoiding the idea of a relationship that is seemingly so far out of reach.
Thanks, Tony, for making the label “single on the subway” not so bad. You’re a cool dude.