Trip With A Stranger
Harry is reading Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” and is completely engrossed as he slouches in the poorly cushioned blue seats of the nearly empty train car. He has his head bent at an uncomfortable angle as he reads with earbuds in to block out the noise of the metal scraping against the tracks. His eyelids felt heavy as he scanned the pages, infatuated every word, ignoring his surroundings completely. He looked up from his glasses when he heard the doors slide open to see a small group of people shuffle in and take their seats around him. He gives a stranger a small smile when he met their eyes, and dives straight back into his book, forgetting the present world for a brief moment. Harry looks up again when he hears a sigh from above him, only to see an exhausted-looking pregnant woman struggling to stay upright as she grips the pole with her left hand, holding her bump with the other.
He quickly stands and motions for the woman to take his seat, who then graciously thanks him and quickly complies as she sinks into the seat. He pocketed his book and earbuds in the front zipper of his backpack and stood near the exit on his phone for the remainder of the ride home. “Harry!” Niall calls from the couch as he heard the front door of their apartment close. “Get your arse over here, the game’s about to start!” Niall had been Harry’s best mate since they met in AP Chem back in high school and clicked immediately, sharing the same dorky interests. They got accepted to the same University and decided to share an apartment to save money. Harry tossed his book bag to the side and collapsed into the couch, earning a groan from Niall as he kicked him on the shin.
They sat together in relative silence, only talking when they ask each other about their day. Harry was telling him about the exam he had coming up when he heard faint snores coming from Niall, and smiled to himself as he picked up the boy with ease and carried him to his room. Harry lazily wraps himself in his covers once he reaches his bedroom, not forgetting to set no less than 4 alarms for the morning ahead. He briefly considers continuing his reading from earlier but figures he’ll use it to occupy him on the tube the following morning. He wakes up to the annoyingly persistent beep of his phone alarms and rushes to get ready for class. He jogs down the stairs of the station and down the hallways to catch his train. He’s about twenty-five minutes away from the physics building and class is starting at five.
He groans and pockets his phone, tucking in his earbuds and lets the sounds of Adele over him as he stretches his long, gangly legs stretch out in front of him. He was singing along to the slow song in his head when he feels someone push his legs off of the seat they had been resting on. He jerks up in surprise and yanks out an earbud at the sudden awakening. “Um, excuse me,” Harry frowns and cocks his head to the side, waiting for an apology for the other man. “I do excuse you,” the guy replies, turning away as he tucks his knees into his chest and begins to scroll through his phone mindlessly. “No, I mean, you really didn’t need to push my legs like that. You could have just asked me to move and it would have had the same result,” “Yeah, I’m sure you would’ve heard me from wherever you were a minute ago,” the man scoffs, refusing to look up.
Harry was completely taken aback by this and scanned his eyes across the rude stranger. He couldn’t have been much older than himself and was dressed in casual clothes, just jeans and a sweatshirt and a beanie to cover his messy brown hair. “Doesn’t hurt to try, don’t have to be such a knob about it,” Harry mutters as he picks up the discarded earbud to place it back in his ear. “Oi! What are you just call me? Keep your legs off the seat, you wanker,” the man sits up and faces harry, anger stretched across his facial features. “I do believe I called you a knob if I’m remembering properly. It’s not the biggest effort in the world to apologize for being blatantly rude, sir. Now if you’d let me spend the rest of the ride in peace and quiet away from your poor attitude, I’d really appreciate it.” Harry replies in a condescending tone and unpauses his music.
He spends the rest of the train ride falling in and out of sleep, every so often glancing over at the stranger and considering kicking his seat just to piss him off, but refrains to be the bigger person. The rest of his day goes by rather uneventful, attending his classes only half paying attention and returning home to Niall to watch bad TV before bed. The following day, Harry thinks his complete lack of luck was taken to a whole new level of terrible. All he wanted was a coffee to get him through his day since his only class was canceled, but things didn’t go exactly as planned. Harry walks into the coffee shop, only to be greeted with a blanket of warmth and the distinguishable scent of coffee beans. He fidgets with his hands as his eyes scan the menu when he hears a warm voice in front of him say, “Made your choice?” He smiles sweetly at the worker, taking a step forward to order his breakfast and coffee when a man steps in front of him and orders his own food.
Harry stumbles back a bit, only to see that the man who had just taken his place in line was the same rude stranger from the tube the previous day. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” the man exclaims when he turns towards Harry, shoving his hands in his pockets as he rolls his eyes. “Wow, you really don’t know manners, do you? Jesus,” Harry trails off as he steps ahead to order his breakfast. “Hey, watch it, I already ordered, wait your turn,” the stranger scolds. “Um, I’m very sorry sir but he was here before you so you’ll have to wait until he has ordered,” the barista awkwardly apologizes, not knowing exactly what do in this situation. “Thank you, love. I’ll have a medium cappuccino and a blueberry muffin, both for here, please,” Harry orders with a polite smile and pays with a generous tip, earning a scoff from the stranger behind him. “Of course, take a seat anywhere you’d like and we’ll bring your order to you,” the waitress smiles and takes the next order.