I was never one for starting my days early.
Some of my teammates obsessed about getting up at the crack of dawn to beat the morning commuter rush and get to the office well before the 8:30 am official start. They probably felt like actuated, proactive worker bees.They probably had no idea they looked like fools with no lives to the rest of us.
No, I was obsessed with leaving the apartment just so that I beat the 10-minute grace period. That was my morning’s zeal and mission, and nothing gave me more satisfaction than buzzing in right before the digital clock hit 8:41.
But Wednesday was Baclaran Day, and I’d been jostled with crowds rivaling those for lifeboats on the Titanicand then stuffed nose-to-armpit on ordinary buses far too many times for me to want to keep repeating the experience. So this Wednesday it was I who rose at the crack of dawn and travelled the empty, hazy gray streets; and it was I who decided, what the hell, I’m here anyway, I might as well cross that pedestrian bridge and take the train.
I have time, and no crowds to compete with.
The train carriages were almost empty, and almost cool. I was in a strange kind of mood. Maybe it was the relative peace in the carriage, or that fresh, hazy quality of the early morning, but I was fancying that I was a character in a cool, self-contained, quiet little indie film.
There would be a long wordless sequence with the camera on me as I gazed out the window, the city flying past, maybe an old Interpol song on the soundtrack. I felt like my character: an ordinary guy who was still cool in an unobtrusive, non-obnoxious way, to whom something extraordinary would happen in the course of the film. Instead of the workable polo and slacks I had on, my movie version would be in an urban hoodie, maybe a cap underneath, maybe rare sneakers on my feet, a whistle round my neck. (I didn’t know why Movie Me had to have a whistle. He/I just did).
Feeling totally in the moment, “Leif Erikson” playing in my head, I walked into the next train carriage. I knew that I was being weird, but I couldn’t help it. I looked around, picked a seat and gazed out the window, conscious of how the shifting light played across my face.
Just as the soundtrack voice in my head mumble-sang “hook me up and throw me, babycakes” the train slid into the next stop and the doors hissed open to let my movie’s main conflict in.
She stepped inside, perched on the seat closest the doors, and hunched over the letter – a real, live, analog paper-and-pen letter – in her hands.
The carriage was almost empty and she was framed by the blue plastic benches and chrome handrails, a perfect moment of cinematography if there ever was one. Her hair was thick and lush and curled at the tips. Bushy bangs framed her narrow face. I noticed the pink flush of her lips and her overlarge white shirt, spotless and androgynous.The neckline pulled a little to reveal the curve of her delicate collarbone. She had a chain around her neck and something that looked like a neon green robot at the end of it (not a whistle, unfortunately), striped jeans and black suede lace-ups. On her lap was a thick knit sweater – an odd accessory in the sweltering heat.
Surely the Casting Director in the Sky had a sense of humor. Here was Movie Me’s love interest, a TVTropes classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG), in the train with me this Wednesday.
I thought of her quirks and how they’d play in my movie:
*The bulky sweater she lugged around because it smelled of her father.
*She made a living from turning reclaimed junk into jewelry.
*She wouldn’t own a phone and neglect to answer her email, preferring the unreliable postal system.