Late one September night, as they stood together on a subway platform waiting for uptown trains, a man said to a woman,
“You know, I entertain the idea of us getting married.”
A passerby wouldn’t have overheard her reply, for the sound of rattling subway cars and the hush in her voice. She might not have said anything more than, Hmmm. Really. She might have wanted to believe him. But he was drunk and when he was drunk, he said things. The same way he said things over breakfast – with fleeting conviction and a boyish sincerity meant only for the moment.
“You’re such a beautiful girl,” he’d say over omelets and juice. Then in the evening, fill her with lies about where he’d lost his wallet or why he didn’t call. Breakfast was easily forgotten.
Only an hour earlier, in a bar some blocks away, he’d stuck a camera up her short black skirt, in front of an audience of friends. The shutter had clicked and she’d clawed to press the delete button – but not before he’d eyed it and grinned.
“How could you?” She had cringed. Humiliation was a digital image of her bare thighs, imperfect and blazing white with the camera’s flash.
“What? I wouldn’t show it to anyone. It’s only for me.”
Later they stood in the heat, him wearing a ratty sweatband on his wrist and her, a vacant pout of an expression. If she was angry, she did not say as much, only withdrew into herself, half-listening as he talked. The man let his eyes rest on her chest, his thumb and forefinger lightly squeezing the top button of her shirt.
“Which train are you going to get on?”
He meant, would she be sharing his bed that night.
“The AC is on. But not because I assumed you’d be staying…” he smiled when he said this.
Just then a train roared into the station, a brightly lit number two shining on its sides. The woman kissed the man on the cheek and said,
“Your train is here.”
A few weeks later, they’d be surprised to learn that a girl they knew was in the family way. His family way. The woman would listen as the man, in his breakfast sincerity, explained his obligation to marry the mother of the child. To do right by the unborn. They would raise their voices and point fingers and spill drinks and he would say that he was sorry.
And she would want to believe him. But he would be drunk, and when he was drunk, he said things.