I run. Run as fast as I can. Only a few more steps. Everyone is asked to step back. I am at the top of the stairs. I hear the warning signal. I rush through the doors, hear them shut close behind me. I made it. With burning lungs and shaky legs I look around the crowded tube. I spot a free window seat, no elderly, pregnant or injured person nearby, who might have a greater claim to the seat than me. Happily I sit down.
For the first few seconds I sit there, catching my breath, waiting until my heart stops racing. Only then I lean back, and while I am entangling my annoying earphones I check out my momentary seat neighbours. Opposite me is a woman in business look, probably in her mid-thirties, reading a book. Next to her sits an elderly woman, clutching her purse and smiling at the baby in the buggy in the next four seat compartment. And opposite her, and next to me, is a man in his forties wearing a suit and reading a newspaper. The entire inspection only takes a few seconds, at most a minute. Then I lean back, scroll through my playlists until I find the one I am looking for, New Playlist No. 6, and press play. For the next few stations I lose myself in the music, while passengers get on and off the tube. The elderly woman is replaced by a teenage boy, whose eyes are glued to his phone. At the next station the newspaper man next to me gets up. I only notice this incidentally. Just the way you notice things, when you’re alone amongst strangers. You see them, but you do not really notice them. Therefore you would have to pay them attention, but why would you do that? They are strangers. You will never see them again. They are only passing by, only grazing me.
The doors open, people shove their way out, and others elbow their way in, fighting for the few remaining free seats. Someone has conquered the seat next to me. Automatically I look up, curious with whom I will share the limited space of the tube for the next few stations, and look into the brown eyes of a young man in his early to mid-twenties – in short: my age. He is handsome. Tanned skin, dark brown, slightly curly hair, designer stubble, straight nose, great cheekbones and jaw, and these chocolate brown eyes. We look into each others eyes, brown into blue, and something happens. Even though the contact only lasts for a few seconds, something has changed. I feel it, and from the look in his eyes, I can tell that he feels it too. Attraction.
He sits down. Takes out a book, opens it. The doors close, the tube accelerates, and off we go through the underground tunnels of Berlin. But nothing is the same anymore. Gone is my comfortable absent-mindedness and indifference. My poor heart suddenly has to put up with yet another marathon, jumping every time, I feel his eyes wander from his book to me or when he is moving in his seat, as if as conscious of himself as I am of myself. In the reflection in the window I see him focussing on his book again. My chance. Quickly I look at him. Something tickles inside my stomach. Butterflies. He feels my eyes on him, looks up. Our eyes meet. Then part. And are again drawn towards each other. We smile. Then look away again, unsure how to react to this sudden and surprising attraction to a total stranger.
My mind is confused. My heart and stomach are not. They are racing and tickling, trying to get my attention. Trying to drown my mind, which is trying to hold me back, telling me that it is irrational, that there are social boundaries which are not to be crossed. But our time is limited. We are passengers. Not knowing for how long we will be together on this train. Not knowing when we will have to part. I feel his gaze on me again several times, while my heart is fighting my mind. The butterflies in my stomach go mad, my head is getting dizzy from all the blood rushing through my veins, which is good. It makes it easier to put out my earphones, that are still playing music, which I haven't noticed since he got on the tube, turn towards him, wait until he looks up with a small smile on his face and say ‘Hi’. He closes his book, slightly shifting his position, so that he is facing me more directly now, saying ‘Hey.’ Our eyes meet. Greet each other. Blue and brown.