(You close your eyes. You are nodding off. Every day it’s the same. Oh, of course here and there little things change. The faces change. Jason at the newsstand wears something different, or perhaps he is altogether absent on those days when the flu seems to be going around. Mary at reception is always her usual self. Though, to be fair, her “usual self” displays at all times a myriad of emotions, all at once. You wonder how she keeps her job. But that's mean, a little bit at least, so you don’t talk about that. You would never say that to her face, and she does have an attractive face.) 

Do you have a wife?
Yes. Or no.
It doesn’t really matter. (Her face doesn’t  change, and what she wears comes from a specific, finite number of combinations.)
She’s boring.
Oh, I’m sorry.
You love her.
Of course, it’s not to say you don’t… 
Yes, she’s the love of your life.
Then we shan’t tell her that she is boring. 

Perhaps if you got together with Mary – without your wife knowing (or if you got together with Mary and you didn’t have a wife, but we shall say in this hypothetical situation that you do have one) – then things might be a little more interesting. As you try to keep your activity or interest hidden from this wife, real or not – or perhaps Mary does not know that you have a wife, even if you truly do not (though hypothetically you do), then things would be altogether much more interesting.

Or, say you found out that Jason has been seeing your wife. Your hypothetical wife, that is, in the event that you do not have one yet, or – I apologize for assuming that it was ever your intention to have a wife, and in fact I apologize for assuming it is a wife and not a husband or spouse or anything else that you would have wanted if you indeed want a… never mind. Yes, if Jason is seeing them (for that would be the proper pronoun) it would spell further intrigue and mystery, though I suppose it would not be very pleasant. For you, at least.

You are thinking about these things on the train today to work.
Do you think of these things every day?
Likely not. But today is special.
Who knows. Somebody decided that it was, so it is.

A young woman comes and sits beside you. Perhaps she does not consider herself a woman, so you must apologize – not out loud, of course – that you have assumed her to be… actually, for the purposes of this scenario, hypothetical or otherwise, we shall say that you have a wife, and both she and this young woman do in fact consider themselves to be women.

Yes, fine, both are young. Yes, you will say this to your wife: both are young.
Are you stupid? Why would you talk about this young woman with your wife?
You won’t? Good.
She smiles at you. It’s the polite, acknowledging sort of half-smile.
You return it.
She asks you how you are doing.
You tell her fine, even if you do not feel as such. Do you ask the question back? Of course. It’s only polite.
She says she is doing amazing. (A little unorthodox of an answer, but she seems to be rather the unorthodox type.)
You ask her why that is. Against your better judgement, perhaps.
She grins and tells you she has a job interview today. She simply must feel amazing.
You are a little confused but do not let that show. Or at least you try to.
She explains, for your benefit, if she is to perform well for the interview, she must positively shine with liveliness.
You agree with her: she is becoming lively as she speaks. You ask what kind of job she is applying for.
A receptionist.
Well, certainly, one needs to be lively to be a receptionist. You recall even Mary is lively: that is one of her many emotions.
The young woman asks what you do. You tell her you work in a place where the presence of a receptionist is also required.
In a company?
Sure. (You may even have a secretary, if your job is well-paid and important enough to deserve a secretary. But then again, you would not be taking the train to work if you had a secretary. Or you would not have a secretary if you were taking the train to work. Do these two things depend on each other? I think not. And anyway, a secretary does not need to be as lively, you think, though you would prefer a lively secretary over one that is not.)
The young woman asks you what you like to do when you get off work.
(Careful now, this is getting personal.) You say you like to watch sports, and read, and drink on occasion.
She nods at the first two but wrinkles her nose at the last.
(Why did you tell her this?) You don’t know. On occasion, you stress.
She smiles. Of course. You cannot help but smile with her. But she is accusing you of something, is she not? Perhaps.
What do you like to read?
A little bit of everything, you tell her.
You nod your head.
C.S. Lewis?
You laugh at the selection she has quizzed you on.
Of course you’ve read C.S. Lewis. But wait, what does she enjoy reading? Does she even enjoy-
Yes, of course she enjoys reading. She prefers Plato, and Marx, and Machiavelli.
That is quite a list, you tell her. And she only wishes to be a receptionist?
She laughs. Oh, she reads about Narnia and all that too.
Yet with her choice of authors she has elevated herself, you point out.
She insists she is the same person who sat down next to you.

What about sports, she turns to you suddenly. What do you like?
Football, soccer, baseball. And tennis, you add.
She frowns. Football as in… American football.
And soccer as in, real football.
You smile and ask her where she is from.
A place where football is played with feet, she laughs. And she does enjoy watching Wimbledon on occasion.
On occasion, you say.
She indulges, yes.
You ask if she’s new to the city.
How does she like it?
Not much different than where she is from.
Does she like America?
Not much different.
Then why come here, you chuckle.
The young woman considers this. A new life, she tells you. A new perspective. New people.
Ah, this is interesting to you. New things.
But she looks up and back to you. She must be going now.
You sit up (you weren’t slouching, were you?) and ask if she is still feeling amazing about this interview. 
Never better, she says.
The train slows, coming into the station, and she asks you to wish her luck.
Good luck, you say. You never got her name.
And you never really needed it, she replies.
But you insist. Still.
The young woman smiles and stands to leave. She tells you her name is Joy.
You watch her walk off the train into the crowded street, her breath hanging in the cold air like a cloud.

Peter Zhang-crop.jpg

Peter is a sophomore at St. George's School in Vancouver, Canada. He loves to swim, read from all different genres and languages, and to sit down on Saturday afternoons with a cup of tea and hammer all of his (at times incoherent) ideas onto paper with a trusty '63 Olivetti typewriter. Peter finds fascinating the ability for written word to last through countless generations of readers and critics, and for this reason he wishes to create a certain permanence to his ideas.

Peter Zhang