Recently scorned people are not always wise, and so, spurning the many games he could be playing on his smartphone, Corey looked around the subway car.
It was pretty full, as it always was at this time of day. But he hadn’t ever really looked at any of the other people on it. That sort of thing wasn’t done; you got on, sat down if you could find a seat, and paid attention to your own business until you got off. Only crazy people stared at their fellow riders on the subway, everyone knew that.
And since this was the first time he’d really looked, it was the first time he was able to notice how many attractive women were sitting within fifteen feet of him. Not that they’d placed themselves there to get his attention or to flatter him. He knew from experience that every woman he could see had the potential to break his heart in a million different ways. His brand new ex-girlfriend had had no problem crushing his feelings into the dust; why should it be any different for any of these women?
Corey slouched back in his seat and tried not to look like he was staring. He didn’t want anyone to think he was crazy, after all.
First, he considered the hot redhead with the librarian glasses leaning on the pole by the door. She would invite him over for dinner for their first date, and they would make cookies together, kissing for the first time as they scattered sprinkles all over her kitchen. But then after he met her parents, she would stop calling, finally explaining with a shrug when they ran into each other weeks later in a coffee shop: “My dad’s a really good judge of character, and I’ve never regretted taking his advice about my relationships.”
Corey was momentarily distracted by a cute blond girl sitting next to him, who was tapping feverishly away at a little netbook. He tried to think of how she would break his heart, but nothing came to mind. Instead, a thought danced across it instead: maybe she’s the one for me; maybe she’d never break my heart. But he shook that thought away with a bitter smile. All women were capable of mashing his heart into pieces. He just couldn’t think of how she would. Not at the moment, anyway. He turned away from her.
The curly haired goddess staring at a book across from him would tell him constantly that he wasn’t a rebound, despite the fact that their relationship would begin after a night of drinking to forget their exes. Then after a month and a half he would start getting texts that sounded as though they were meant to be received by someone else. And when he asked her about it, she would reluctantly admit that she’d run into a former boyfriend, and thought she was falling back in love with him.
The train pulled into a stop and several people got off. The curly haired goddess was one of them. Yeah, walk out of my life and back to him, Corey thought, as though their relationship had been real. As the train started moving again, the blond girl accidentally knocked into him.
“Oh, sorry…” she said shyly, turning the screen of her netbook away so that he wouldn’t see it. “Excuse me.”
“No problem,” Corey replied, and went back to his pondering.
He and the brunette sitting at the end of the car would meet at a play. She would be fascinated by his critique of the amateur acting, hanging on his every word. For months she would shower him with praise and make him feel like the most brilliant man in the world, telling him, “You’re the only one for me; where have you been all my life?” Until he found out that she was dating three other men and one woman on the side.
Corey sighed. Maybe playing with his smartphone was a better idea than dwelling on his bitter feelings. People broke up with each other all the time; there were plenty more fish in the sea. He reached into his pocket for his phone and caught the blond girl staring at a man on the other side of the car.
“What are you doing?” he whispered.
She jumped, and blushed. “Um, nothing. Just… writing.” She gestured with her netbook. “A hazard of the day job, I guess. Write at work, write to relax.” She turned back to her computer with a guilty look on her face.
“What are you writing?” Corey asked.
She shook her head as her face turned an even deeper shade of red. “Nothing,” she protested.
He frowned at her. “What are you writing?” he repeated.
She sighed an embarrassed sigh. “It’s just…” she began hesitantly, as though she wasn’t sure she wanted to share her secret with a stranger on the subway. Then she whispered: “I’ve been… making up scenarios about the different ways that I might end up married to each one of the men on the train.”
Corey couldn’t believe it. She was doing exactly the same thing he was, only in a far less bitterly depressing way. As he looked at her, he allowed that hopeful thought from earlier to reenter his brain: maybe the reason he hadn’t been able to think of how she would break his heart was because she never would. Maybe he and this girl beside him were meant to be together forever.
He smiled the first genuine smile since earlier that day when his ex had nonchalantly shattered his heart into a million pieces.
“Really?” he said. “How did it work out for you and me?”
She snapped her netbook shut and shoved it into her bag, standing as the train began to slow. “Um,” she mumbled, looking disconcerted. “I didn’t… I didn’t write one about you.”
The doors opened and she pushed her way to them and exited the train.
And now Corey had the answer to how she would break his heart.