I hit the same bus every morning, Monday to Friday. It comes at 7:03 am. It doesn't matter whether I am running late or if I am ahead of schedule. I never miss this particular bus. To make it, I will sprint like my life depends on it; I will chase the bus two blocks to the next stop. I need to be on this bus.
Now before you think I am crazy, let me tell you why.
There’s a girl in her mid-twenties on the bus. Not just any girl--THE GIRL. I am 28, but I get as flustered as a 13 year-old when I see her. She looks like a cross between Drew Barrymore and Ms. Beven, my 8th grade teacher. She gets on the bus four stops after me. She usually has an everything bagel with a ton of cream cheese, and she kind of makes a mess when she eats it. She has a big sack that she carries all her stuff in, including a small case that looks as if it holds an instrument – a flute or maybe a clarinet.
I went for a long time without trying to talk to her, because I didn’t know how in the world to talk to a girl on the bus without seeming like a creep. I'd seen guys make real jerks of themselves by using cheesy pickup lines, and I couldn’t imagine convincingly saying something like, "Boy, this bus is soooo slow, it’s like a turtle. How about grabbing a drink with me Friday night?"
Then one day, I was sitting in the front section of the bus when she got on and sat down across from me. I felt very timid and self-conscious. I tried not to look directly at her, but as we rode along, I couldn't help but sneak little glances. I would look over and then up, pretending to read the bus advertisements above her head.
The bus was very warm, and after a while I dozed off. I was sort of dreaming, sort of awake. I opened my eyes and saw her there across from me. She was smiling right at me as she ate her bagel. I smiled back. She had a couple of little patches of cream cheese on her left cheek. I felt a bit buzzed. I looked down and noticed a little silver ring on her wedding finger.
"Are you engaged?" I mumbled dreamily.
It wasn't until I heard a few people giggling around us that I realized I wasn’t asleep, and I had actually just asked her this question. She gave me a big smile, but didn't say anything. I tried to smile back, but I was mortified. I didn’t look at her the rest of the ride.
The next day when she got on the bus I noticed that she wasn’t wearing a ring on any of her fingers. Must’ve been a friendship ring, I thought to myself. She looked over, gave me a half-smile, and sat down. Again, I tried to smile back, but I was still too flustered and embarrassed, so I just sat there, listening to my iPod.
A week later, she sat down right next to me. At first, I panicked--I was so nervous, if I had had a paper bag, I would’ve started to breathe into it. But I knew this was my big chance. I had to make my move. I tried to pump myself up by chanting "WADE! WADE! WADE! WADE!" over and over again in my head. I started to sweat a bit. It was now or never. Mustering all my courage, I leaned over and gestured at the case in her sack, "I love the clarinet. Ah,... I mean, Miss, is that a clarinet?"»
She shook her head, looked down at her case and then at me, "No, it’s a pool cue."
I was confused. "Pool cue, in that little case? Come on!"
"No really, it’s a screw in." She showed me the "8 ball" sticker that was on the bottom of the case. Then she opened the case and I saw, in four pieces, a shiny, pink pool stick.
"Oh... that's pretty," I said, wincing at how girlie the words sounded as they left my mouth.
That was the extent of our conversation for that ride.
Two weeks later, I was sitting up front when she got on the bus and sat next to me again. She was wearing this really cool pink scarf. I don't know much about scarves, but this one seemed very pretty. As she mauled her bagel like she hadn't eaten for weeks, I waited for the perfect moment to unload what I had prepared to say to her for the last two weeks. (I had googled "Women's billiards" and studied up on the subject.) Just as she was taking her last bite, I cleared my throat and said, "The Black Widow is a great female pool player, but me... I am more of an Irish Invader kinda guy. I mean, that woman, though not so good looking, can take the pressure and sink that eight ball like nobody's business."
She smiled and giggled sweetly, but everyone around us burst into laughter at my obvious, awkward attempt at flirting. My ears burned. I felt like crawling under my seat. I had come prepared and yet somehow, I had still managed to blow it.
But as we got off the bus, she turned to me and said, "I like the Irish Invader, too."
My heart leapt, so much so that I couldn't get any words out of my mouth. As other people got off the bus, we were pushed in opposite directions.
In a last effort, she turned to wave as the crowd swept her farther away.
"The Irish Invader, she’s the best!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.
I briefly saw her smile, but the pedestrian's current was too much. She was gone.
That was the last time I ever saw my pool playing bus crush. Everyday, I still catch the 7:03 am hoping to see her, but it is to no avail.
As of late, I have often been up at night watching reruns of old billiard championships. And when I see the Irish Invader kicking butt, I can't help but feel some solace, because I know she's out there somewhere, watching it too. We are now connected, somehow, thanks to the Irish Invader.