As the intercity train from Schiphol arrives at Leiden Central, we shuffle and readjust positions until we are standing on either side of the train doors. The twin doors heave and open with a sigh, letting rush-hour passengers out via the narrow aisle we’ve created. Once the last passenger gets off, we dash for the two cabins on the right. Each passenger holds the swinging glass cabin door for the next to catch as though passing the baton in a relay race, a perfunctory smile or nod in place.
I always sit in the upper deck. After I settle into my seat, my phone beeps. Martijn wants to share a song via Bluetooth. I crane forward and backward, rising from my chair, to catch a view of Martijn. Most people in the thirty-two-seater cabin have their eyes glued to the Metro newspaper, a tablet, or a smart phone. A few chat while one sips coffee from a paper cup. Our eyes meet and he smiles first.
This tall man with close-cut hair wearing blue jeans and brown lace-up shoes is a regular who waits for the train in outlier territory, at the end of Platform 4, way past the Kiosk shop. His glasses add seriousness to his good looks and he always has earplugs on. So, Martijn is his name.
I pair my phone with his and accept the song. Roy Orbison’s Oh Pretty Woman, fills my ears. I contain my laughter, cupping my lips with my hands and sneak another peek at Martijn. He is busy with his phone.
At Den Haag, passengers crowd the stairs leading down the doors. We sway left and right, holding the banister or resting on walls, as the train changes tracks to rest on Platform 8. On the platform and in the main hall, passengers move like a colony of soldier ants defending capitalism. I walk with unhurried steps to give Martijn a chance, but his long strides overtake mine as he rushes to chip out with his card.
On Tuesday, I check my phone several times and my disappointment mounts as we approach Den Haag. Since Martijn is sitting on the left side of the train like me, it is fruitless desperation to peep through the aisle. When we disembark, his long strides overtake mine just like yesterday.
On Wednesday, I arrive Platform 4 early, but he does not. He slips into the train seconds before the doors close and walks past our cabin to the next because it is full. I sigh and continue looking out the window. My phone startles me. Martijn has sent me 3 Doors Down’s, Here Without You. I smile and wonder about the range of Bluetooth technology before losing myself in the lyrics.
“Which song today?” my coworkers ask after I arrive at the office.
It is our game. Martijn has been serenading me for six days. The day I wore my red coat, they guessed, Chris de Burgh’s Lady in Red. My burgeoning romance story doesn’t impress all.
“Aren’t you afraid of viruses and him stealing your information?”
“If you have the latest Android update, you’re safe,” another colleague counters.
We google the answer and I continue accepting songs from Martijn.
Martijn’s ritual is unchanged. He gives a perfunctory nod at the cabin door if I am behind him and hurries away after we disembark.
“This is maddening!” a coworker declares.
“What kind of clown doesn’t speak to a girl?” another shakes his head.
“A shy one; a Dutch guy,” I reply.
One evening, after I get off the train on my return journey, someone calls my name, “Angela.”
I turn, “Do I know you?”
I leave his hand hanging as my mind struggles to do the math. I feel as if all but the last number of my lottery ticket has been called and when the last number is announced, it is a two instead of my three.
“Yes.” He smiles, revealing gap teeth. He is a couple of inches taller than I am, a blur on our section of the platform.
“It w . . . was you?” Disappointment makes my voice husky.
“May I buy you coffee?” He points to the Kiosk shop.
It is the least I can do. “Sure,” I say still subtracting, adding, and rewinding the lottery winner announcement.
We sit on a bench outside the shop, letting the paper cups warm our hands and watching people chip out or in. The sum doesn’t make sense.
“But . . . how did you know my name . . . my phone?”
“I checked for discoverable devices, took a stab in the dark, and watched you plug your headphones.”
He laughs. His chest and belly join his face. I do not.
“Life is funny,” he begins.
Yes, and here I am sitting with the real Martijn. I almost won the lottery!
“We spend so much time chasing what’s ahead, when we could just look back.”
I don’t have time for pop psychology. I take a sip of my coffee and calculate the number of sips it will take to finish. Lottery is a game of chance, a thrill-seeker’s fantasy.
“Like you,” he gestures with his cup, “You’re reaching for someone; meanwhile, he’s probably reaching for someone else—”
“Tall, handsome guy on the train . . .”
My cheeks burn. I dislike his tone and express it with mine. “Your point being?”
“Turn around and take a chance on who’s pursuing you instead of pursuing elusive happiness.” His eyes dance like flames.
Does he think life is like Lotto? Maybe it is. A search for, which lottery numbers come up the most, fetches 50 million results under one minute.
I sigh. “You shouldn’t send stuff to strangers.”
“But you liked my songs—”
“I was curious . . .” I look at my boots. “You invaded my privacy.”
“No, you let me in; you accepted my songs.”
I watch the sky exchange hues, blue for pale orange and then reddish-orange. Streetlights come on and trains whizz past. On the train platforms, crowds thin out. The probability of picking a single correct number in Lotto depends on how many balls have already been chosen.
“Angela? Angela . . . here’s a free tip, turn off your Bluetooth and people will leave you alone!” He gets up and throws his coffee in the bin. “Ready?”
I look ahead until I hear his footfalls fade.
In the morning, I turn off my Bluetooth and then turn it on just before I enter the train. People play the lottery in the irrational hope of winning something. Nothing suspends logic and inspires hope and dreams like the love lottery.
I look around, but Martijn is not in my cabin. I want to go to the next cabin to check, but I’m afraid of losing my seat.
The first time my phone beeps, it’s an email notification. The second time, it’s a WhatsApp message. The third time, Martijn wants to share a song via Bluetooth. I wonder about the range of Bluetooth technology as strains of Lionel Richie’s, Hello is it me you’re looking for, fill my ears.
©Timi Yeseibo 2015
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