She sat down on the bench in the subway station and rubbed at her calves. Traveling to the city had made her exhausted, and the anticipation of seeing him for the first time had grown. She knew she shouldn’t be agitated or nervous — she didn’t expect anything from him. She hadn’t gotten her hopes up. But she was still excited about it.
Being without a father for most of her life had her used to disappointment, anyway.
He hadn’t called her, hadn’t written her a letter, hadn’t made any attempt to contact her before last week. And now here she was, alone in the city, without her mother to comfort her or her friends for support, a long way from home.
She had made the trip by herself that morning without telling anyone, slipping quietly out of the apartment while her mother was still asleep. Her mom hadn’t known about her father’s letter in the first place. It hurt her not to tell her mother what she was doing — but she was afraid she wouldn’t have allowed her to go.
She had called a cab that took her to the train station and took the train to the city. A simple, easy plan that had been executed perfectly. She had always been independent, despite the clingy, overprotective nature of her mother. That’s what you become when you grow up without a dad. But she loved her mother and knew that she had done her best in raising her.
She glanced quickly around the subway station, trying to make herself aware of her surroundings. The station was almost empty. A sullen teenager leaning against the tile wall, earphones blasting, blocking out the world. A straight-edged businessman near the stairs, tap tap tapping away on his fancy cell phone. A harassed-looking mother holding the hand of her whining child near the track. That was all.
The city had always made her nervous. Subways had always made her nervous. So many people, so many people she didn’t know anything about, so many people that didn’t care about her, or each other…
Ducking her head down and breathing out quietly, she hitched up the strap of her backpack on her shoulder. She wondered about the teenager. He probably didn’t care about his family.
The businessman probably didn’t have time for his family, if he had one at all.
She wondered if the mother regretted taking her child to the train station.
She wondered what was going through their minds at that moment.
Were they thinking about her?
They didn’t know where she was from, where she was going. They didn’t know what her favorite color was, what type of pizza toppings she liked or who she thought about before she went to bed at night. They didn’t know her go-to movie, they didn’t know if she was happy. They shouldn’t care about her at all.
This made her think about her father. Why had he decided to contact her just then? When she had received the letter from him asking her to lunch last week, she didn’t know how to react. She should have felt upset or angry, but she wasn’t. All she knew was that she was curious, and that not knowing for her whole life was enough. It had changed her world, that letter.
She decided to satiate her curiosity. And that’s why she was here.
But he didn’t know her favorite color or what pizza toppings she liked. (Purple, and pepperoni.) He didn’t know who she thought about before she went to sleep (Chris Gordon, from her AP Spanish class, who was cute and said hi to her sometimes in the hallway). He didn’t know her go-to movie (Grease, always.) And she was happy, for the most part. She wondered if he cared at all about these little things.
A sheaf of hair fell over her face, and she subconsciously tucked it behind her ear. She was doubtful the people in the station cared. They didn’t care about anything except their own lives, their own problems.
In situations like this, she felt like the only conscious human in a world of sheep.
Suddenly, a pair of lights appeared in the distance, and got bigger and bigger as the train car approached.
She tightly shut her eyes. The car raced past her swiftly, and the rush of air blew past her.
She felt rattled.