If they could make it to Hansaring, they would be fine. If they could make it inside the cinema, to the movie they had said all week they would definitely go see, find two seats somewhere in the middle not too close to the screen, sit in the dark for two hours and not talk, they would be fine. They would walk out of the cinema themselves, a young man and young woman still happy to be in the company of one another. Teddy was confident of this. They didn’t fight anymore, Teddy knew, they simply stopped talking for long periods of time. So long, in fact, they both eventually stopped wondering what the other was thinking—at least Teddy did. And that was the trick, he knew, waiting it out. To be able to resist the urge to speak too soon—that was paramount. Too much communication could ruin a relationship; yes, past experience and his own parents taught Teddy this. So as they got on the train and found two vacant seats side by side near the middle doors, Teddy looked straight ahead and not at Henriette, turning his attention, with equal parts performance and equal parts genuine curiosity, to the strangers around them and away from Henriette.
It was seven stops to Hansaring.
The man across from Henriette read a book. It was a very big book, a Hunger Games or Game of Thrones kind, with a sword and flame and chess piece on the cover. Teddy had never read such a big book. The man was on the very last page and Teddy felt guilty suddenly for spying on him during this faintly personal moment, but he did not stop. It was not often, he reasoned, that he would get the opportunity to observe another person at the exact moment they finished a book, a big one at that. But, after the last page, the man, without so much as a satisfied nod or pensive stare, shut the thing and immediately put in his iPod buds. This disappointed Teddy.
The woman diagonal Henriette refused to smile. It was not necessary, of course, to smile on a city train, but Teddy observed two very funny things happen to her in as many stops, and both times she did not react. Firstly, her friend, a taller lady, stood up to stamp her ticket when the doors opened and three fanatical teenage girls poured in, mid conversation, crashing down on either side of the woman, before she had any time to object. When the friend returned, the woman simply pointed matter of factly to the rambunctious girls, to indicate that, by the friend’s own fault for getting up, her seat had been taken. As the train jerked forward abruptly, the friend, still standing, rocked backwards and sat down with all her weight on a man’s lap; that was the second funny thing that happened. The woman sitting watched with total indifference, the way one might observe a stranger chewing on a fingernail. Teddy decided he did not like watching this woman.
Outside, the park before the river passed on the right. As Teddy watched the trees and joggers and drinkers through the glass, he glanced at Henriette. Because she was also looking out the window, he saw only her cheek, framed on one side by her dark, beautifully straight hair.
Teddy just then became very aware that, to someone watching him and Henriette, they must seem like complete strangers. Or possibly life partners. Any two people in between—coworkers, friends, meditation buddies—would never go so long without speaking. This made Teddy very self conscious, and as he caught, what he believed to be, an elderly lady analyzing his and Henriette’s situation, he almost spoke to Henriette right then and there, for no other reason than to present themselves more positively and truthfully to the public. But Teddy resisted. Luckily, the elderly lady got off at the next stop.
A student in gym shorts took her place. He talked on his phone in another language, perhaps Greek, at a polite and not unpleasant level. Teddy listened for a while but then lost interest.
The next stop was Hansaring.
Teddy and Henriette got off the train and walked onto the escalator. When they got up to the street, they saw a crowd of people standing outside the cinema. Teddy and Henriette crossed the road and walked together toward the glowing yellow lights. They walked side by side but did not hold hands, occasionally touching shoulders only when the pavement was uneven.
The movie was sold out.
Teddy and Henriette remained there for a minute, among the other deliberating moviegoers. Teddy quickly scanned the marquee. There was another movie playing soon, but Teddy knew it was one that Henriette would not want to see. Oh, the hell with it. This was getting ridiculous. He loved Henriette. He knew that, and he knew she knew that. They would get over this like they always did, and these fights, these prolonged periods of silence, the recent frequency of them, would come to pass like a fad, like last summer when they started making their own pickles. Anyway, enough time had passed. And if it hadn’t, Teddy knew, if anything from the movies, that change of setting could help convey the passing of time, so now that they were on the street, not on the train or in their apartment, it might at least feel like enough time had passed to resume speaking. Yes, Teddy could talk to Henriette again. He was sure of it.
“Should I buy us tickets for The Lego Movie then?” asked Teddy.
“Teddy,” said Henriette, turning to face him, for the first time all night, water in her eyes. “We need to talk.”
About the Author: Vincent Chu is a writer from San Francisco who currently lives and works in Germany. His short stories have appeared in a few places, most recently the Tethered by Letters Quarterly Journal. You can read more of his writing at vincentchufiction.tumblr.com.
Story Song: "Sanctified" by Rick Ross