For as long as I’ve known her, she prefers the window seat. She prefers the window seat because she needs to see that she’s moving. She has no scientific proof that the window seat improves her queasiness. She says her body acutely senses movement on any mode of transportation, but without visual confirmation, her stomach becomes a butterfly sanctuary and her mind a throbbing after-party. I haven’t asked her to prove it, scientifically. I have no reason to suspect her, although I’m not sure if this is a matter of trust.
As city-dwellers, we use public transportation for everything, so naturally, we met on the bus. I had the day off. She was on her way to work. I usually ride with headphones to avoid the missionaries who always seemed to find me but the day I met her, I’d broken them. I needed new ones quick.
I’d just gotten on the downtown bus toward my favorite electronics shop, standing room only. As passengers boarded and departed I eventually got a seat, which happened to be next to her. My legs ached from the day before since my trainer insisted that I do 300 squats. Sitting didn’t relieve my aching thighs anymore than standing did, but I always prefer sitting to standing. She says it’s because I’m too lazy for my own good but that didn’t stop her from loving me. I’d only glanced at her as I sat, her eyes to the graffitied concrete wall outside, my eyes on my silenced video game.
I don’t remember anything about her that day, just that she politely exploited my open ears. She introduced herself. I introduced myself. I don’t remember what we talked about. We happened to get off at the same stop and just happened to walk in the same direction—I went to the electronics store and she stepped toward the café next door. I teased that maybe I’d join her after I bought my new headphones. She happily agreed, offering me a free drink. “I own the place,” she clarified. I understood and, laughing, took her up on her free drink. I ended up helping her and her employees close up shop. We rode the bus back together, she at the window, me in the aisle. Our commutes (on days I do work) are in opposite directions but we often went out of our way to commute together. She saved the aisle seat for me. I saved the window seat for her.
Months later we find ourselves engaged. Happily engaged. Neither of us is big fans of rings so we traded best friend necklaces. We wanted only our closest friends to know about our romantic arrangement. Well, she wanted only our closest friends to know. I was ready to buy a bullhorn and engrave it with our names. I’d proposed to her on the bus, she at the window, me in the aisle. I’d hired a couple of photographers, one on the bus, one following in a car, so that they’d catch all the emotions. it’s our favorite photo album.
We’d finished my dress fitting and were on our way to her parents. Her parents live in the suburbs so we have to take a train. It’s not a straight shot, we have to make a couple of transfers but the ride’s pretty easy. We’d taken the ride so many times, I’m sure we could’ve made the trip with a bad case of amnesia. For whatever reason that morning, though, we ran around like the chickens my parents used to slaughter in our backyard. Our alarm didn’t go off. Turns out the building’s power went out for a minute, resetting our digital clock. We were twenty minutes late for my dress fitting, which made us an hour late to her parents’.
Standing on the platform she swore loud enough for everyone to hear. I didn’t bother shushing her but waited for her to continue. In our rush, she forgot her cardigan. She swore again. She recounted to me, arms flailing, “I specifically laid it out last night! It’s on the rattan chair. It’s on the rattan chair. It’s on the-.” she swore a third time. I tucked her under my shrugging shoulders, my eyes still on my silenced video game. I promised her it would be all right. “It will not be all right.” she insisted. “The train will be freezing. I’ll be freezing.”
The train arrived, oddly empty with it being the rush hour so we took our time choosing a seat. I was so into my game that I didn’t notice she sat in the aisle seat so when I sat on her bony lap instead of the asymmetrically cushioned aisle seat I almost dropped my phone. I looked at her. She patted the window seat. “Sit,” she invited.
I couldn’t look out the window. “Are you sure?”
Fumbling, I tucked my phone into the inner pocket of my jacket. I still couldn’t look out the window but she didn’t notice. She tucked her hands into the crook of my arm, admiring the view for both of us. I could feel her shivering as she drew nearer to me. When the train delayed because of track fires (or whatever the voice on the PA system said) she didn’t complain. She tapped her toes, pecked my cheek, or pretended to sleep, her hands tucked neatly in the crook of my arm. I still couldn’t look out the window. I could only tell where we were by the automatic announcements. She chronicled the entire forty-five-minute train ride without noticing my eyes hadn’t left my feet. I spent the entire train ride and the transfers (because she sat in the aisle seat every time) and the walk to her parents thinking up a better way to tie my shoes.
I didn’t come up with one.
We arrived at her parents’ where we ate a late dinner and played some board games. Unfortunately, we had to leave early because I had to wake up early for a special project at work. “Oh, that’s exciting!” admired her parents. “It’s the third project you’re leading! That’s really good! When you come next week, you’ll have to update us!” I promised I would, and they wouldn’t let us leave without five pounds of leftovers. They always make more than they need, but that’s okay. I like free ready-made lunches to bring to work. I’m not complaining.
I was so excited about our free lunches for the week that I’d forgotten she’d sat in the aisle seat hours before when she did it again on the way home. I chuckled when I took her window seat, flopping down, turning my attention to the purple clouds out the window. I kept chuckling, suppressing it behind the collar of my sweater. She poked me first in my arm, then my stomach. “What’s so funny?” she said, poking harder which made me laugh louder. I would’ve drawn everyone’s attention if the car hadn’t been empty.
I restrained her so I could breathe without her tickling me. “Listen, listen. Listen! Stop tickling me. Stop. Stop. I said- I said stop! I-if you keep tickling me I won’t answer. You wanna know why I’m laughing? Because I’m sitting in your seat. You always sit in this seat.”
She looked around. “Have we been in this car before? Is there something- a piece of your dried gum or graffiti or scuff mark that indicates we rode in this car before? Am I supposed to know this?”
“What? No, what are you talking about? No, this is your seat. You always take the window seat. Always. Why am I sitting here? In your seat.”
“Oh. Because I’m cold. Remember? I forgot my cardigan. If I sit too close to the window where the ventilation system is, I’ll be cold.”
She reached across me to point at the window. “The AC tends to pump out at the window. That’s where the vents are. I’m saying I’m using you like my blanket.”
“But you always sit at the window seat. That’s your thing. You told me that you always sit at the window because if you—”
“I don’t get motion sickness anymore.”
I forgot how to blink. “What? You don’t? What? D-do you take something before our trips? Can you cure motion sickness?” I was about to pull out my smartphone for a quick web search but she stopped me, sliding my phone back into my jacket pocket. She smiled and explained, “I don’t get motion sickness anymore because I’m with you.”
“Are you only with me because I’m a placebo? Wh-wha-what does that mean?”
She rolled her eyes, twirling her necklace around her fingers. “No, you just gave me something else to focus on. You. I focus on you now.” She fell asleep on my shoulder before I could ask anything further.
That night I couldn’t sleep and instead stared at her cardigan hanging from our vanity. She wore that cardigan everywhere. In a few months, we’ll be on their way to Calgary for our honeymoon. Neither of us had ever visited Canada and figured Calgary would be a good start. The cardigan slung over her shoulders, or tied around her waist, or hung on a hook in our suite.
Oh, yeah. I forgot I bought her that cardigan.
The thrifty one in our relationship, she fell in love with that cardigan but it wasn’t on sale. She scolded herself for even trying it on but it was exactly the color and fabric and weight- “and even the buttons! The buttons! Babe, the buttons! Look at the buttons!” But she couldn’t bring herself to buy it and I wouldn’t look at it because I had to pretend to ignore her knowing full well I would return without her the following day to buy it. I wanted to wait until her birthday to give it to her, her birthday only a month away at the time, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even wait until her café closed. I took the bus all the way down to her café, carrying it openly in my arms through the entrance. She squealed as she slipped it on and in front of all her employees and customers she toppled me to the ground with the greatest kiss she ever planted on me.
Quietly, I slipped out of bed and took her cardigan with me to the other room in search of thread.
I finished my project, sprayed it with a couple spritzes of my perfume and left for work before she woke. I’d only hopped off the bus at my stop when I received a text from her- it was a picture of her wearing only the cardigan grin emanating above my project. She texted with it, “I didn’t even know you could embroider!”
I wouldn’t call it embroidery, I replied, it’s just a sloppy heart.
I focus on you now, too, I texted.