by Kate Todd
She sees them everywhere, like wires of varying gauges connecting objects to people, people to people, objects to objects. Some are as thin as fishing line, cold as an extension cord left out in the deep of winter, while others are taut, straining like sturdy bridge cables or red hot and dangerous.
She would like to not see them, where they start and where they end, what they attract and what they repel. For one thing, these lines leave nothing to the imagination. Not that she’s a storyteller, but she’s curious in herself, always digging, peeking, lifting the lid. The draw of a puzzle is too much to resist, and what greater puzzle than the 206 pieces that make up a human body? It’s no fun when the answer is given. Like a shaken Christmas present, her vision ruins the surprise.
She’s often cursed this type of second sight for the temptation it carries. She’s tried not to look, knowing that she won’t be able to look away. To see some stories would be enough to satisfy her curiosity, an amuse-bouche instead of a buffet to gorge on. If she could only see strangers for what they project, her life would be far simpler, less open to unintentional wounding. Her young heart is so tired.
She yearns for a protective layer of obliviousness, like the person next to her who observes the same couple in the aisle. The woman’s hand wrapped around the man’s upper arm, his arm around her waist, steadying. Unlike her neighbour, whose gaze stays focused on the pair, she watches as the line forms, creeping out like a vine towards the true object of his attention – another man halfway down the carriage. When their eyes meet, they sparkle. To anyone else, the intertwined couple is a snapshot – sweet, cute, adorable, precious. Meanwhile, the blatant desire that no one else sees breaks her heart a little more.
It’s on a Wednesday like any other, on the 8:27 to Milton Keynes that the ultimate puzzle presents itself. This morning it’s the total absence of connections that nearly knocks her flat when the train pulls out of the station. A tall woman, her brunette bob soaring over the bent heads of her commuters, renders her speechless, her inquiring mind devoid of a theory, a backstory. How can everyone else remain so focused on their phones, their books, their coffee with this presence in their midst? The woman stands in the aisle, her gaze soft, but without focus, so free she could be levitating.
Without deciding to, she follows the woman when the train disgorges its rush hour load. Her height should make her easy to trail, only it doesn’t and she spends the rest of the day adrift. It’s another week until she gets her next opportunity. This time she won’t lose her, but try as she might to see, there’s no anchoring line between them. She loses her on the heaving platform.
She doesn’t know what she’s going to do or say when they do meet. How will she solve this woman now that she’s become used to the answer being laid out in front of her eyes? Even those who seem most carefree are no less immune to the same trappings as everyone else. Perhaps their lines are more delicate, like gossamer, nearly invisible until the light catches a thread.
Yet the brunette has none.
The next week, she takes an earlier train and waits at the barriers, peering through the walking web of dislikes and desires. She will gain the upper hand this time and intercept. When the brunette steps out of the carriage, she feels the rush of a solution presenting itself. The same train, the same door, just as she so badly wanted it to be.
Her tongue ties when the soft gaze lands on her and doesn’t loosen until they are standing facing each other.
‘I’ve been looking for you,’ she says.
‘I know you have,’ she says.
Kate Todd | @KTodd_Writes
By day, Kate Todd is a business analyst for an international fine art firm. In every other spare minute, she is a reader and writer. She is represented by Carly Watters of P.S. Literary. Always up for a challenge, she is currently editing her first novel and working on a new manuscript.