Love At First Sight… On Separate Trains

I have to say, as a hopeless romantic, that this is my favorite BBC story in, perhaps, forever.

It’s the stuff of fairytales and songs that sell millions of copies around the world and make you an international singing star, if you’re James Blunt.

As almost anyone with ears and a radio in 2005 would know, he saw a woman’s face in a crowded place and he didn’t know what to do. Should have put an appeal in Lovestruck.

The dating column in the Londonpaper, a free evening newspaper distributed across London, is hugely popular with commuters. It tries to match those whose eyes met across the bus, tube or train carriage and share one of those “moments” Blunt sings about.

Sadly, the paper appears to be going under, as of Friday, losing a competition with another free paper. But the article notes that there are other sites geared toward facilitating meetings between these “ships passing in the night” sorts of encounters.

More, the article explores the notion of that instant, the moment when eyes meet, pulses race, imaginations run wild…

But are these “moments” real or is it all in our heads? Attraction can be that instant, in fact human beings are wired up that way, says Professor Adrian Furnham, co-author of The Psychology of Physical Attraction.

“We do pick things up very quickly – someone’s scent or a look that lasts a second longer than normal. Men in particular are wired up this way,” he says.

Not terribly surprising there, from my point of view. Oh, wait, there’s more:

“The interesting thing is that people believe the feeling is reciprocated, that something has been shared and that isn’t always the case. Even if it is mutual it’s not about romance, it’s about lust. Humans are wired up to mate, not be romantic.”

Spoilsport. (Ok, as a serious parenthetical in the middle of a lighthearted post, I have witnessed men who thought their feelings reciprocated. They thought they were in love; technically, in this case, due to differences in positional power, it was sexual harassment. Men, please do not assume she feels the same way. Ask. And listen…. ok, back to the lighthearted post:)

I have felt this, many times. When I met Cuttlespouse, I fell in love roughly .0001 seconds after seeing her for the first time. It took her a bit longer.

In instances where it is clearly an impossibility, the feeling is still inescapably wonderful; there is a fruit market in Athens that is indelibly etched in my memory simply for two moments. Going up the street, I chanced to look in the store and met her eyes. Going back down the street several hours later, the same. As the BBC story goes, this was one of those glances that lasted a little longer than usual, and that is all it takes. It was magical. Perhaps all the more magical because it can never be sullied by the harsh treatment of reality–in truth, she may have been looking past me toward someone else. But not in my memory.

Of course, the BBC includes a successful meeting in their writeup; the story would be just to horrible without it. But hey, those one-in-a-million success stories are what keep us going. For the Cuttlespouse and I, going for 25 years so far.

The verse is fictional–I started it in third person, but it just worked better in first.

I saw her—just a fleeting glance—
Amidst the milling crowd;
I thought she had to notice me,
My heart, it beat so loud.

I caught her eye, and kept my gaze,
As witnesses attest,
But I was in the eastbound queue
And she was in the west.

I very nearly missed my train
To keep her in my sight.
An angel, even in the glare
Of cold fluorescent light

Transformed I was; forevermore
I’d live a life possessed;
For I was on the eastbound train
And she was on the west.

My sadness grew with every mile
A dull and aching pain
I’d seen my heart’s companion, whom
I’d never see again.

My heart, I thought, would break apart
In pieces in my chest
For I was on the eastbound train
And she was on the west.

A week, then two, a month and more
I watched to see her face
Although I witnessed thousands there,
Of her there was no trace.

I loved, I knew, the perfect heart
Inside her perfect breast,
But I was on the eastbound train
And she was on the west.

It seemed a lifetime that I sought
The one whom I desired,
While she remained invisible
As if the gods conspired.

And if the gods denied me love,
The gods I would contest
Though I was on the eastbound train
And she was on the west.

And then, one day, a Lovestruck ad:
“The day we almost met”
The time, the place, the date, the face
I never will forget.

For weeks she had been looking,
But it’s just as you have guessed:
If she looked on the eastbound train,
That day I’d search the west.

We met, of course, and fell in love;
Now constantly explain
Just how it was we first met eyes
While riding separate trains.

And none could be so happy, no,
And none have been so blessed,
We sometimes take the eastbound train
And sometimes take the west.



  1. says

    Ah dear… at the moment, I'm not quite sure which train I'm on and I'm thinking that I'm probably reading signals wrong. But good to read your work, regardless.

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