Non-Friends

Did you ever meet someone and know immediately that you didn’t click?

Have you ever then been stuck with that person for an hour or more?

Tonight, while I was waiting for the subway, I headed to the train service sign as soon as I got underground. Before I could get my headphones in, a boy came up to me and asked me where I was headed. I said Queens [figuring, what are the chances?] and he responded, “Oh, me too.”  I asked him what stop, and when it didn’t sound familiar to me, I said, “What letter train is that off of?” Admittedly, it’s not the most ‘New-Yorker’ way of asking, but any transplant New Yorker [like myself] would understand what I meant, and no native New Yorker would be approaching me.  As soon as he said, “What does that mean?” with a dazed look on his face, I knew that he was either a tourist or new to the city.

I elaborated a little and he told me what train he usually took, which was only a few stops after I transferred. I briefly explained to him the obstacle course of hoops we would have to go through to get to where we were going instead of the usual route, because it was after 10pm and there was some kind of construction going on, and he quietly said, “So you’re getting off just a few stops before me?”

I gave him a gentle smile and said, “Yeah, just follow me.”  I took him up and down some stairs, and we chatted a bit while waiting for the platform. Normally, this would be the perfect time to make a new friend. What a great story! “How do you guys know each other?” “Oh, we actually met each other on the subway platform one night!”  Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that we were not going to be friends. He was fresh out of high school, new to the city, working in finance. I’m post-grad, have been in the city for six years, work as a copy writer/marketing assistant/whatever the hell it is I do.  Normally, these facts alone wouldn’t be enough to keep me from befriending someone, but there was something about our interaction, our personalities, that just didn’t click. I think he sensed it, too, because after we transferred trains [going up and down more stairs], and he saw his stop on the future stops list, he settled into his own and kept to himself. Our awkward attempts at perpetuating the conversation ceased and we carried on in peaceful silence.

It was a weird feeling. Because I make friends with the man who sells me my sandwich or any and all bartenders. I’m friendly by nature and if the other person seems willing, I will talk about any and everything with them. This boy and I, however, simply did not click. Yet, while I could have popped my headphones in at that first station, could have said “this is what you need to do, goodbye and good luck”, I didn’t. I could tell right away our personalities clashed, but I couldn’t abandon him.

I am protective by nature and felt the need to get him as close to home as possible before saying my goodbyes. After a while, I realized he seemed a little more reserved by nature. However, knowing nothing about each other, we tried to force a conversation for far longer than was necessary. We both knew this wasn’t working out. We both knew he was just using me to get to where he needed to go. Though, I appreciated his effort.

It was a weird feeling. Usually I feel connected to strangers I don’t even exchange words with, yet I couldn’t feel connected to this boy who I was leading home.

Weird is the only way to describe it.

I don’t even have a point to make. I haven’t yet come to any conclusions about this interaction, I don’t know what it means, I don’t understand it. Maybe the psych major in me will figure it out, maybe I will never know, maybe it doesn’t matter.

But I found it kind of fascinating that I’ve had better conversations with a barista at a random Starbucks I had never been to before than this person I spent almost an hour of my life with.

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~ by Valerie Anne on 09/15/2011.

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