I Keep Falling in Love With Strangers on the Subway
It’s easier to risk getting burned when you know they’ll leave from the start
I have a habit no one knows about (except, of course, the people who are now reading about it on the world wide web). I have a tendency to fall in love with strangers on buses, trains, and trolleys. Sometimes it happens at the station when I’m waiting for the next train to pull up. Other times, it happens during my commute. On other days, it happens as I brush past a passenger who’s boarding a train as I exit. For a brief moment, our eyes will connect, and sometimes our souls, and I imagine a lifetime together. This dream of what could be disintegrates as soon as one or both of us arrives at our stop. But for that one single moment, I feel less lonely, more hopeful, and safe in the knowledge that it never really could be.
I spent my teenage and early adult years as a magnet for trouble. I met my first boyfriend in a psychiatric hospital as a teenager. I tried to act like it was a normal, healthy place to meet a normal, healthy person, but the rocky relationship did a poor job of backing that up. I met my second boyfriend at church. After a week, he decided that if I wouldn’t commit to marrying him right then, he needed to explicitly threaten to abuse me. I filed a PFA (Protection From Abuse order), and I left town when they wouldn’t renew the order because he hadn’t made any new threats.
I met my third boyfriend online. By the time my vision focused and I saw how flaming red the flags were, my self-esteem was ravaged. I was a shell of who I’d been before. I was afraid to seek help because he had already begun the work of painting me as a crazy, unreliable narrator of my own story. When the chance to leave and start fresh somewhere new popped up, I jumped at it.
Despite having been in three relationships, I’ve never been in love. I have this theory that I’m bad at picking men as partners because liking men in a romantic sense doesn’t come naturally to me. In my home and my town, gay people were “those people.” When they were outside of our home, we “respected them” (despite believing they were depraved, immoral, evil, and in desperate need of changing themselves).