by Elissa Schappell
Friday after work, I headed to Penn Station. It was a mob scene. Milling beneath the departures and arrivals sign I spotted an intense-looking guy with unevenly cropped blondish-brown hair that stood up on end. He was wearing a torn-up Harris tweed coat, safety-orange socks, high-tops, black pants, and a turtleneck sweater. Sticking out of his pocket was a biography of Jean Cocteau.
I barely had time to check him out before they called my train. Walking down the steps to the platform, I heard a voice say, "This is hell, isn't it?"
It was the boy in the Harris tweed coat.
"It is," I said, my heart beating fast. I was suddenly aware of the large, dorky, tortoiseshell barrette holding back my ponytail, the stripe of white hair hanging in my eyes, my untucked turtleneck and linty black pants. I looked really awful.
He sat across from me on the train—a move I thought rather bold. I don't talk to strangers, I thought, my cheeks and ears burning. On our way south, the train broke down repeatedly. During our six-hour journey, he told me he was a writer, that he'd bailed out of graduate school a few weeks earlier, and that he now worked in an art postcard factory. To illustrate this point, he reached into his bag and pulled out a postcard, a Robert Doisneau image of a French couple kissing. I blushed. It was so corny, and so forward, and so…sigh.
"Take it," he said, when I handed it back to him. "It's for you."
BOOM. It was like a bag of flour fell on my head, and in that moment I thought, I will either marry this man or kill him, because no one else is ever going to have him.
Elissa Schappell is the author of Use Me, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and editor at large of Tin House.