Missed Connections

This quirky bit of short fiction was inspired by the “Missed Connections” section of Craigslist. I hope you enjoy it.


Missed Connections

Cotton Candy Cat Girl

You were standing behind the door of a stalled outbound Green Line train at three thirty Tuesday afternoon. Leggings with white cat faces in a sea of black. Pink streaks in your long white hair that made me think of taffy and bubble gum and girl singers from the eighties. You were reading something on your phone that made you smile. I won’t be able to sleep until I know what it was. Maybe you missed me, a skinny redheaded freckled guy in a Spider-Man T-shirt, staring at you from the inbound side, wishing time would freeze, longing for a non-pervy look into your closet. But in case you glanced up, for only a second, or even if you didn’t, let’s meet in the middle and share TBR lists.

Doe Eyes on the Green Line

I was so engrossed in rereading the first Harry Potter book—crushed so hard on those Weasly twins when I was a kid, or is that TMI?—that I barely noticed the T had stalled out north of Kenmore. Maybe it was the rush of the train passing on the opposite tracks that pulled my attention. Maybe it was you. I saw your eyes through the window. Soft, like a doe’s. And you smiled. So tell me, tall, dark, and handsome in the black muscle tee on the Tuesday afternoon train. I’ve never done anything like this, and maybe you were just smiling at my punky self like “look at the freak,” but if those eyes were meant for me, let’s meet for a brew somewhere and see where this leads.

Cat Girl, Why So Blue?

I didn’t think I’d see you again, or that you’d even get my message. But there you were at five thirty on Friday, on the outbound C train, your cotton-candy hair now streaked with blue. Does it change with your moods, like those old rings my mom has? I wish I could make it pink again. If you looked out your window you might have seen me crossing Beacon Street against the lights—yeah, I’m a rebel like that—with beer and comic books and a pizza. If you remember the guy in the Flash T-shirt carrying a bunch of stuff while drivers honked at him, maybe we can split a pizza one day. Unless you’re vegan. It’s hard to tell anymore.

Crossing Paths at Park Street

Thursday at eleven a.m. at the Park Street station. Our eyes met across the platform. Your gaze dropped to my checkered Chuck Taylors and you smiled, in a better sort of way than before. So maybe I’m not so much of a freak as I think I am. Or you were looking for something to brighten the reason you were wearing a suit in the middle of the day in the middle of July. But then a train came, and when it pulled away you were gone. I hope you got the job. Or got out of the ticket. Message me and let’s talk about it. I’m a good listener.

Rainbow Brite

Friday afternoon, about two. You were sitting at an outdoor café in Coolidge Corner, blue and pink now braided together like dancing rainbow ribbons, with something tall and frosty in front of you. I was on the inbound C train, and I almost pulled the cord to get out, but I thought that would be kinda creepy. Also, you looked like you were waiting for someone. I hope whoever it was showed. Because that’s not right, to leave a cool Rainbow Brite girl like you stranded on the corner. I might have to challenge the person to a duel or something, and I have a feeling I would probably suck at that.

Was It Something I Said?

It might have been amusing, if life were a rom-com, and if I was being played by that girl from Juno, to have two or three guys come up to my table and ask if they could join me. You know, with that la-la-lasoundtrack behind us. And then I’d have to tell them, “No, I’m waiting for this random guy I met a handful of times and all I know about him is that I think he likes my wardrobe.” Funny, huh? Totally hilarious. So I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and convince myself that your mother’s cousin’s hairdresser needed you to change a flat or something. Same place on Monday?

Color Me Baffled on the B Line

I thought you smiled at me on Saturday afternoon, across a sardine-crowded outbound Green Line car at Copley Station, but that could have been wishful thinking. Or my overactive imagination. I mean, who knows? Maybe I’m invisible. Like I’m a spirit traveling through time and I’m the only one who can see my body. Color me baffled, but you sort of gave off that vibe today. Like you’d just realized you’re also not part of this dimension. Is that why you’d washed the streaks out of your hair? Why you were wearing all black? Maybe there’s another plane we can meet in.

Fool Me Once, Shame On You. Fool Me Twice, You Suck.

Saturday night you said your name was Rafael and that I was the most beautiful girl you’d ever seen in a train station. You twirled your finger around a lock of my hair and said some romantic-sounding words in a language I didn’t understand. Or the music in the club was too loud. Maybe you really did apologize for the no-show in Coolidge Corner. Two drinks in I was ready to go home with you and find out where the trail of your tattoos led. Then that Latina chick slithered by and called you Enrique. You didn’t correct her. That phone call you got right after must have been important. By the way, you owe me twenty for the bar bill. Donate it to your favorite charity. A scholarship fund for the women you leave behind. Or use it to buy a goddamn clue.

Watercolor Painting Freeze-Frame

Mom’s eyebrows rose when I said that once again I’d seen you, a palette of somber shades on a Monday morning, dashing across Beacon Street to beat the rain. She doesn’t believe in missed connections, in the Doppler Effect, in two trains passing in the night. If fate wanted, it would have us meet in the middle, a watercolor painting freeze-frame of two hands pressed on either side of a window. Well, that’s not exactly what she said. In truth it was more like “schmuck, what are you waiting for?” But I like my version better. It has more hope, more life, more magic. What if it’s not the Green Line at all where we keep missing, but the Hogwarts Express?

Damsel in Distressed Denim

You didn’t strike me as the kind of person who reads Missed Connections, so I’m posting this to the universe and hope you see these words. Thank you for the handkerchief—we both knew I couldn’t blame all the tears on the rain. You’re a kind man, and the world needs more kind men, and your wife is a very lucky woman. I wish I knew how the two of you met, but since you got off at Copley, I didn’t get to ask, so it leaves me to imagine. I’m seeing another handkerchief, another rainstorm, another damsel in distress. She’s probably wise and funny; she’d probably be proud of you for helping me. So this guy wasn’t the one. It’s hardly the end of the world—I’ll just throw my D&D dice and let fate take me for a spin.

All by Myself on the Top of the Shelf Looking Down

Maybe my mother was right. I kind of felt like a schmuck when I saw you on the Park Street platform Tuesday afternoon with that guy. You in black Chuck Taylors (how many pairs do you have!) and your hair snagged into a high pony; him like a billboard for Muscle-Man Gym. It’s none of my business. We don’t even know each other’s names. But the hole that gnawed at my stomach when I saw the two of you together, the way he touched your arm…that had a name, and it wasn’t pretty. So I went home to the part of the movie where they’d show montages of me being all bummed and alone. Sorting my superhero socks, alone. Eating my cornflakes, alone. Shopping for comic books, alone. But I can’t shake this Spidey-sense that he was the kind of guy you thought you should go for, and that I—maybe you’ll also think I’m a schmuck for saying this—was a guy you might want to get to know. A little. Maybe. A guy can hope.

Missing Something?

Hey, cute freckle-faced dude in the Avengers T-shirt who jumped off that wicked jam-packed Green Line train at Washington Street, so fast you left your comic books behind: I’ll keep the bag in a safe place until you answer this message. Well, after I read them. You have great taste in comics.

My Rainbow Connection

You in pink Chucks and pink tights and pink hair, you with a rainbow of colors in your kaleidoscope eyes, a smile I know is for me because there’s no one else in the car leaving Kenmore Square at eleven p.m. on a Wednesday. You stand and walk toward me and take the seat next to me, lean your head against my shoulder, and for a long time, we say nothing. It feels right, like we’re two magnets, and I can almost hear a ping that makes us visible again. Like the two halves of Shazam’s magic ring. You smell like coffee and donuts and books; you tell me that you’ve always liked guys with red hair and freckles. Your number sits on my phone like a promise. So I don’t even need to post this message. Maybe I just wanted to thank Missed Connections for existing? Or maybe I’m just sticking my tongue out at that guy who was never going to be good enough for you. So, Cotton Candy Girl, would you mind if once in a while I posted here, wrote some goopy stuff to make people believe in happy endings? Or is that too weird? I’ll let you decide.

I Haaaht Boston

BostonDid you ever visit somewhere and know, deep in your soul, that you’d live there one day? That when the time was right, a place would open up its arms to you? Sure, maybe that welcoming embrace would be scratchy and too tight in the wrong ways and its breath would smell like beer and last night’s nachos, but it would still be home.

My introduction to Boston was a short trip to investigate a few prospective colleges. I stayed in Cambridge with my brother and his partner, who would eventually become his wife and then his ex-wife. It was a bumpy phase for the two of them, so I spent a lot of that visit getting scarce. Not so good for them, but an opportunity for me to investigate the city. I didn’t have tons of money for subways, but the streets were fine. Not frenetic and slightly scary like Manhattan (or at least that’s way I felt about it at sixteen, in the days before Times Square went Disney), but approachable. All slouchy and comfortable, like my faded jeans and satin baseball cap. (Hey, they were in style back then, don’t judge me.)

Life sped forward, and with my shiny diploma and gigantic portfolio, I was looking for a job on Madison Avenue. New York was still frenetic, still slightly scary…and I was miserable. So when my magician friend floated the possibility of finding work in Boston, the dirty water of the Charles called my name.

Visiting the city at sixteen had been fun…like hanging out with that cute, guilty-pleasure guy you’d never take home to Mom. Marrying the place was a whole ’nother bowl of chowder, and I’d apparently romanticized all the bad points from my little high school fling. Among other challenges, I had to navigate a subway system, the job market, the neighborhoods, and the lack of decent bagels. Then there was the language difference. I grew up speaking what I thought was English, an assumption that only lasted until I tried to order a cup of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Cawfy reglah?”

“What?”

Eyeroll from the cashier as the line behind me grumbled. And small, slow words, like I was five. “Ya. Want. Caw. Fee. Reg. Lah?”

I thought I understood. Regular coffee. In my culture, that meant black. Regular, plain old coffee, right? Wrong. Cream and sugar. Next.

So of course my first job involved working the counter at a copy shop and answering the phone. Apparently the Universe had decided I needed full-on language immersion. The owners were two Southie guys who’d been best friends since Scollay Square had strippers. (Google it, kids.) My first week, one of them reduced me to tears—of laughter and pain—when he tried to explain where I was supposed to deliver a box of flyers.

“Havastree,” he said. I shook my head. He repeated it again and again as if that were the secret to understanding, because apparently, the syllable-by-syllable breakdown hadn’t worked for me. Finally he said it slowly enough for me to realize that it was two words: “Havad Street.”

But I’d never heard of the place. I’d even checked the map. Frustration pinched the corners of his eyes. “You know, Havad Street. Havad Street. Like the college.” And then he wrote it down: H-A-V-A-D. No, I’m not making this up.

I did assimilate, eventually. The magician moved on, but I stayed a few more years. I even developed a bit of an accent and a fondness for the Red Sox, much to my Yankee-loving father’s dismay. In my heart, though, I miss the place wicked bad, and I know that those big arms would have me back again, someday. Especially now that I don’t need Rosetta Stone to order a cup of coffee.

—–

Laurie Boris has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels with another on the way. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. Want to join the mailing list and learn about special deals and upcoming releases, including her next novel, A Sudden Gust of Gravity, which is set in lovely, lovely Boston? You can do that here.

Sliding Past Vertical: It’s Here!

Sliding Past VerticalIt’s here! Sliding Past Vertical, at least the e-book version, is now officially live on Amazon, and I’m celebrating! For today only, you can pick up a free copy on Amazon for your Kindle or Kindle-app.

A bit about the novel:

Sarah Cohen is a walking disaster. She means well, but the ex-diver’s hasty decisions wreak havoc on her life in Boston. Good thing Emerson is a phone call away in Syracuse, with a metaphorical mop to clean up the mess. Their long-distance friendship can be excruciating for him, though. Years after they shared a brief college romance, he’s still in love with her. When everything goes wrong, Sarah takes another plunge: back to the scene of her last mistake, to start fresh. Unfortunately for Emerson, the move puts her too close for comfort. Her attempts to straighten her life’s trajectory are sometimes amusing and sometimes catastrophic. With Sarah around, is anyone safe?

Want to know more? Read the first chapter here or check out the trailer:

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Sliding Past Vertical: First Chapter Sneak Peek!

SPV_v3

Happy Monday, everyone! I’m so excited to share with you this excerpt from Sliding Past Vertical, my romantic suspense novel, which will be published in just a few weeks on Amazon.com. First, the blurb:

Sarah Cohen is a walking disaster. She means well, but with each ill-considered decision, this twenty-nine-year-old graphic artist and ex-diving protégé damages not only herself, but also her fellow Bostonians. Good thing she has Emerson McCann on her side, at least for now. This nursing home orderly and aspiring author is just a phone call away in Syracuse, with a metaphorical mop to clean up the messes of her life. For Sarah, who moved east after graduating from Syracuse University in 1979, it’s become a comfortable long-distance friendship. But it can be excruciating for Emerson. Eleven years after their short and emotionally consuming freshman-year romance, he is still in love with her. When everything goes wrong all at once, Sarah plunges into another rash decision. To correct her mistakes, as her high school coach used to tell her when she flubbed a dive, she must return to the point where she went wrong and start again. So she’s moving back to Syracuse and into a vacancy in Emerson’s rooming house, a choice that has sometimes amusing but sometimes catastrophic consequences. And nobody is safe.

Chapter One
Boston: July 1987 Continue reading

Tools of the Trade: Graphic Artists

SD505One snowy evening last year I was goofing off taking a well-deserved break on Facebook when I started chatting with a woman from Rhode Island. It turned out we’d both worked in graphic arts in the days before desktop publishing. We grew nostalgic about the tools we missed: T-squares, melted wax, non-reproducing-blue pencils, drafting tables. I told her that I’d worked late every Thursday night for three years in the bullpen of a Boston advertising agency to type-spec and paste up ads for the Sunday newspapers. Every sweater I owned had bits of border tape stuck to the elbows. One time I even found a piece on my cat. Soon we’d attracted a small crowd of our former colleagues, and we swapped X-acto knife horror stories and fond memories. Continue reading

How Research Can Save Your Book

barclayI’m funny about doing research for my novels. If I’m not collaborating on a project, I like to wing it with what I can pull from my subconscious memory, on the first draft at least. Then I go back and fill in the missing holes. It’s fun to cover a fresh printout with sticky notes and make lists of what I need to know. But I’m kind of geeky that way. Continue reading