by Lynn Kim Do

Is He Looking At Me?

Documenting an all too common encounter that happens too often to all of us--Is s/he checking us out? Secretly hoping they are, envisioning the sound they make as they delicately say your name, the warmth coming from their body as they hold you, down to what your kids will probably look like. The only problem is--you're waiting for this stranger to make a move.

Luke Hat - Yellow 108 // Waverly Sunnies - Classic Specs // Long Cardigan - Theory // Turtleneck - Marc by Marc Jacobs // Blue Denim - AG // Lace Up Heel (similar) - Zara

Exiting the L, I walk towards my usual connecting train. On a typical weekday, it would be an aggressive walk towards the NQR, an automated stampede along as well as against the people heading to their respective adult prerogatives. Except today is a Saturday...except I am actually heading to the office. On this rare weekend effort, my usual walk or olympic competitive stroll feels different than my weekday routine. My walk holds less weight as my feet hit the ground, my focus less narrow as I take in the Violinist to my right peripheral and then the stairs ahead of me leading to the Uptown NQR line.

Walking closely along the meant-to-be-alarming yellow stripes begging me not to test the ledge, I try to find the right amount of standing space, preferably between two pillars, preferably next to a pillar in case I feel like resting my back against the cold cement. Because the two options are always nice. Train arrivals can be a crab shoot sometimes except the dealer always has the lucky hand. My eyes land on the perfect waiting spot. A 1x1 vacant space that isn't next to a pillar but between two of them. Second best choice. I spot it several feet away and casually yet convictively walk there, looking at my phone occasionally, because any desperate look to get there may warrant other's interest. As a New Yorker, you should never look desperate. If you never know what expression to take, go for the I don't ever give a fuck face.

I take complete ownership of the spot as I wait. My eyes scan my elbow, my watch, and my bracelet before I catch the time on my phone. I am early. That's a change. Pulling my phone to my face, I take an opportunity to pull up the kindle app. I wonder if I would have finished the book a year ago if I had a hard copy. If I knew a tree died so I could touch the spine of the fiction and mutilate it by indenting sharp diagonal lines for future references that don't arrive. Clicking the app open, I feel a taller presence invade a portion of my sacred territory. Moving my eyes, keeping every inch of my body still, casual, smooth, I spy a tall and handsome man. Not a culprit if I don't mind it, is it? I stare a second too long as he fidgets with his hoodie, which does a horrible job of covering his beautiful face. I feel him looking at me. I think he's looking at me. I hope so. I probably won't see him once we get in the train. It doesn't matter if he's looking. Eh, I'm going to go with he's totally looking.

The train is coming. Stepping on the yellow line, inching forward, I let the person in front guide me in like his shadow, doing all the pushing and shoving, until I autonomously spot a seat in the train. Lowering my butt between two seated people, praying I don't accidentally land on their lap, I recognize the hoodie beauty sitting across from me. Is this meant to be? I look at him. And his gaze slowly falls on me. Wait, is he really looking at... I look off to the side. Okay, act cool. Do the I don't give a fuck face. I look at the girl next to him drifting my gaze to her shoes, back up, then to the ad near the door. Wait, but let me see if he's looking at me. My gaze slowly yet strategically makes it way back to him. I study his face. You must be a model. If not, you should be. I should tell him. We could grab drinks. If I don't work too late. What can I say to you? What do you sound like? I wonder what my name sounds like coming from your mouth? You probably have an accent. Maybe you're Irish. Scottish. He's looking right at me. Okay, smile. The IDGAF face can easily be the bitch face. Approachable. Go for the approachable thing. I look down and grin. Fidgeting in my bag, I pull out my phone, unlock the screen, and flick the screen a few times. Just look busy. Raising my eyebrows enough to allow him to enter my view, I catch him looking right at me. Why won't you say something? Are you even looking at me? Or past me? Do I look funny? No, no. Maybe he's gay. Maybe he thinks I'm the freak who won't stop staring at him. Smile, smile. That'll work.

Next stop, 28th Street. My stop. If it's meant to be, he'll run after me. Right? That's what Ryan Goslin would do. The train shrieks between the brake and the track. I hold my breath as I rise from my seat, consciously avoiding all eye contact because I'm not phased by this engagement and because I need to be cool, I adjust my handbag on my shoulder giving him just one more second to make a decision, any decision, and I walk out of the train car. The door closes behind me. And there is no beautiful hooded man running after me down the station, through the rotating exit bars, just to catch my name. To wrap his fingers around my forearm to pull me back. To tell me that the moment he laid his eyes on me, he knew. He knew that he would rather get off at the wrong stop, take a detour,  and pause his life's anticipation, to ask for my name. To get to know me. I decide that the moment I hit the final subway stairs, these thoughts will be abandoned. As my feet hit the stairs, I look up towards the light. A friendly reminder that it's daytime. That I had a destination. Work. Taking my first step onto the pavement, a man in blue denim and a leather jacket flashes a sweet smile in my direction. We both look back as our legs move away from one another. Let me get to work.

 Photos by Apneet Kaur


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