In my dreams, the leggy blonde and I ‘meet cute,’ just like in a Hollywood movie. We collide on the street and she spills her coffee, and I my papers. We both scramble to pick up the coffee-sopped pages of perhaps my novel or something, and maybe it starts to rain. We dash under an awning where she tries to arrange my pages in order, and our foreheads collide. We laugh. I offer to buy her more coffee. She says she could use something stronger. We go to a bar.
That’s one of a myriad of scenarios I’ve imagined over the months that I’ve waited each morning at the Third Avenue bus stop where the leggy blonde and I always catch the bus. In my meet cute fantasies, that bus has at various times crashed, been boarded by terrorists, muggers, aliens, and even attacked by a giant ape. In all scenarios, I end up with the leggy blonde, though the last one involved me high-tailing it to the top of the Empire State Building. No giant ape gonna run off with my leggy blonde.
In reality of course I’m just a putz who can’t talk to women, particularly blondes of the leggy variety. I’ve almost tried at various times, but I always chicken out. One look at that golden hair framing her Vogue-model face, or her well-tanned gams, always festooned in a short skirt, and I melt back inside myself and simply dream away the bus ride. It’s safer that way.
One day she was late getting to the bus, and I got into a sulk, missing even the sight of her. Then, as I sat in the front row, I saw her come running down Third Avenue, her feet bare, her shoes in one hand while the other carried her satchel. She made it just before the doors closed, and she hurried up into the bus. When she passed me, she brushed against a portly man and a small Moleskine notebook fell out of the side pocket of her satchel. She didn’t notice, nor did anyone else.
I stared at the notebook for a moment. There it was. I had but to pick it up and I had a reason to go talk to her. The bus creaked and groaned as it pulled away, and still no one took notice of the book. I picked it up, held it in my hands reverently, then slowly looked back at her. She had popped some earbuds into her ears and closed her eyes. Damn!
The bus rolled on. It got to her stop, and she got up and exited, while I sat unmoving, Moleskine book in hand.
I got very little work done that day, as I sat in my cubicle and read her journal. I was fascinated. Here was a little window into my leggy blonde’s life. In contained the standard fare: friendships won and lost, relationships gone bad, even a treatise on her love of George Clooney. But interspersed were little stories and vignettes. Leggy blonde fancied herself a writer, just like me!
Now I had to meet her. I reread the journal that night, getting very little sleep. I got to the bus stop early, finding that she did too. When the bus came, I made a point to leap on it quick, sitting in the front seat. When she got on, she walked past me, her satchel brushing my knees.
I leapt up, journal in hand, and when she sat down, I joined her.
“Ma’am, sorry to bother you, but you dropped this.”
“What? Oh, thanks. That’s weird, I was sure I lost that yesterday.”
“No, it just fell out of your satchel.”
“Wow, thanks. It’s, um, my boyfriend’s. He was angry I’d lost it.”
“Your boyfriend has the hots for George Clooney?” Shit — did I just say that? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! This is why I keep my mouth shut.
“What! Hey, you read it? So I did lose it yesterday.”
“Yeah, you got me. I picked it up yesterday.”
“That’s rude, man.”
“I… I, look, I didn’t mean — ”
“You know, I don’t think I want to talk to you anymore.” With this she turned, popped in her earbuds, and ignored me. I got up and moved back to the front seat.
We got to her stop, she exited, and I sat there feeling like a heel. The driver started to reach for the handle to close the doors. I jumped up and darted off the bus and ran after her.
“Ma’am. Excuse me, ma’am.”
She stopped. “What?”
“I… I just wanted to apologize. I’m a dumbass, and I shouldn’t have read your journal.”
“Yeah, that’s what I meant.”
She laughed. “Look, you were right. It’s not my boyfriend’s. I don’t have a boyfriend. I’m new in the City and, well, Mom said to pretend I had one when I talk to strangers. Anyway, thanks for returning it.” She started to walk off.
“Sorry. It’s just… well, there’s some good writing in there. I’m a writer too. And well, God damn it, I’ve wanted to say something to you since the first time I saw you on the bus. But truth is, I’m scared to talk to women, especially pretty women like you.”
“You’re talking to me now. What do you want to say?”
“Can I buy you a cup of coffee sometime?”
“Well, I guess I owe you one, or maybe you owe me one. What the hell. There’s a coffee shop down the block called Pot Pourys. Meet me there at five-thirty.”
“Sure, why not. I need to meet more writers. And you could use some practice talking to women, right?”
“Steve,” I said, shaking her delicate hand. She smiled, and I smiled back. It was just like in the movies, only without the terrorists, or muggers, or aliens, or leggy-blonde-snatching giant apes… or George Clooney.
Christopher Owen lives in Texas with his wife and two cats. His work has appeared at Daily Science Fiction, Fried Fiction, Mystic Signals and other places. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop.