Playing Pretend

I felt him before I saw him. Something changed the air around me, and I looked up and saw him. I drank him in. Tall, dark, broad, with this natural ease. I couldn’t pull my eyes away, and then I noticed the book he carried- one I had read recently. I don’t even remember what book it was. I do remember we happily chatted for a while, I may have even let my train stop come and go to keep talking to him. And then we sat in the station at his stop, and talked some more. Of course he had someone. He was too good not to. But, for a train ride, he was mine.

In the end, it was a really good conversation with an interesting stranger. The kind of conversation that lifts you, gives you lightness under your feet. We chastely exchanged contact information, with no plot other than a distant friendly connection. Good people are still curious. And over the years, we’ve watched each other through the safe distance of social media. We sometimes catch up with a short conversation, we often forget about each other. But, one day, I met this perfect stranger on a train.

I didn’t ask about a silly book to start a book club with this handsome man on a train. I had looked at him, and in that moment had already imagined what it would be like to kiss him, feel him against me. The book was pretext. It could have been a great book, too. But I couldn’t have cared less about the damn book. I can remember the thrill of capturing his attention. I may have blushed. I probably did.

Fantasies are tricky. They are easy to breathe life into, hard to control, you often find yourself stumbling over your own feet to decide how to move forward. What I like most about my stranger is that he is happy. He is happy to go with someone else’s plan, and he is happy to enjoy the moment he is in. He is happy to be in new places and meet new people and see new things. And it’s not about the novelty of it all, the saying he’s done this or that, it is because he actually finds happiness in these things.

That, and he is smart. Smarter than me, maybe- Smart enough certainly that I can learn a thing or two from him. An alpha in his field. Someone with ambition not just to make money, gain all those things the world around you tells you to, but ambition to excel at what he does. Ambition to do his job well and lead others to do the same. Ambition to change those things he can. So few people these days have that sort of ambition. Some never did, some have had it beaten out of them. He is these things, and compassionate and generous at the same time. Not just with things, that is easy, but with himself, his time.

I decided all this in a number of stops. I built him as he stood in front of me, with minimal contribution needed from him. Then I got on a train and went home. I left my perfect stranger- perfect because he’s a stranger- to his strange life, and rode the train back to mine. I met a perfect stranger one day. Reality doesn’t touch him, doesn’t burn the walls down around me; he’s fiction, beyond all that, and I do so love playing pretend.




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