Short Story: This Mystery Man

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

by ELLA FRIEDMAN - Feb. 2, 2019

I met him on the subway.


He scared me, if I’m being totally honest. When I first saw him, my immediate instinct was to find a different spot, as far away as possible. However, the car was really crowded and I was shoved to the open spot right next to him. And just because Life must have a funny sense of humor, a couple moments later, the subway lurched and made me fall onto a strong, hard chest.


For two lengthy, agonizing seconds, which felt more like an eternity, we were chest to chest, face to face, his golden eyes looking fixedly into mine.


But then he did something unexpected: he smiled.


It wasn’t one of those wicked, evil smiles that the bad guys make in the movies, which is what I expected from him. Instead, his face broke out into a mischievous, boyish grin, the kind that spreads across someone’s whole face. When he smiled, all of his hard, sharp features softened, and his whole face changed. His raven hair fell into his golden, glowing eyes.


“It seems you have fallen for me,” he laughed, his dazzling grin still intact.


I just gaped at him, bewildered. Who would’ve thought that a pretty smile and simple quip could derail me? It took a couple seconds, but I managed to detangle my body from him, my face and neck a flaming red.


“Yeah well, I didn’t fall for you; I fell on you,” I said pointedly, my eyes roaming everywhere except his face. My God, I couldn’t even look at him. Because the moment I looked at him, I would turn into a bumbling, blabbering mess. And I wasn’t going to let that happen. “Sorry about that. I’m usually not so clumsy.”


“Don’t be sorry. I actually enjoyed it a bit.” He cocked his head, as if he were studying me. He made me feel uneasy, but I kind of liked it. And that stupid smile was still on his face.


I snorted, “How charming.” His grin widened, and I felt myself smile. Who was this mystery man, someone so witty, making me smile so easily? I decided to take a chance.


“I’m Violet.” I thrust out my hand to him and he took it, giving a firm handshake, his eyes never leaving mine, his smile never wavering.


“I know,” he replied.


My heart stopped. What did he mean, I know? He must have seen me tense up because his golden eyes widened ever so slightly, and he nodded his head at my shirt, where my name tag was. I relaxed, feeling stupid and internally yelling at myself for being so paranoid. “Promise I am not a stalker; just observant.”


His smile was so reassuring, and I felt myself wanting to smile back. So, I did.


I decided I liked this mystery man, despite him being a mystery. Or maybe that’s the reason why I liked him. Ignoring the puzzle that was my brain, I sat down next to him, our knees slightly touching.


We ended up talking for almost an hour. Coincidentally, his stop was the one right before mine. I learned many things: he was a photographer, and a successful one at that. I looked at some of his pictures; they were breathtakingly amazing. He had traveled the world for his job, going to Beijing, Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, and even to Nepal to climb Mount Everest. He told me about how he was currently training to take pictures in the deep ocean. He talked about his childhood and how he never sees his sister anymore because she’s in a bad marriage and her husband never lets her leave. I think I might know almost everything about this man.


Except his name.


Despite that, I told him a lot about me too. I told him things that my roommate, Suzanne, whom I have known for years, didn’t even know. There was something about this mystery man that compelled me to trust him. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was definitely there.


He suddenly started to stand up and gather his stuff. I realized that his stop must be coming up.


“Are you ever going to tell me your name?” I inquired, hoping he would turn his head and flash his beautiful smile at me. “You know mine, so I think that it is only fair that I know yours,” I protested, my arms crossed. As soon as I said it, I regretted it. It sounded weak and needy, like I was desperate for friendship. Truth be told, I was; I liked this boy. I wanted to know him, wanted to talk to him every day.


My older sister, Cate, always talks about how when she first met her husband, Stanley, she knew he would be an important person in her life. I would always scoff and tease her, saying “How did you know? Was there a magical rainbow or did a unicorn tell you?”


She always endured my teasing, something I love about her. Once though, she looked at me and murmured, “You will know when you see him, Violet. You just know.”


And with this boy, I just knew.


As the car started to slow, he headed towards the subway doors beside a giggling group of eight-year-old Girls Scouts. When he turned around, my heart filled with hope.


“You want to know my name, Violet?” he asked, his golden eyes sparkling. I cocked my head and gave him a look that said What do you think?


He laughed his beautiful laugh and smiled his stunning smile.


He opened his mouth to tell me his name, except I couldn’t hear a word he said because at that exact moment, the subway doors open and the group of Girl Scouts shrieked, drowning out his voice. Giving me one last smile, he walked off the subway.


“Wait, what?” I cried, silently begging him to turn around and see me, and come back. “Wait… tell me your name again?!” But he just continued walking, advancing toward a large bustling crowd, in which I knew he would disappear and I would never see him again.


It was then that I made a split-second decision.


I grabbed my gear and slipped through the closing subway doors. As I slung my bag over my shoulder, I searched the crowd. I couldn’t see his raven black hair anywhere. And there were only two exits in the subway station, but they went different ways.


As I struggled to decide which stairwell to take, I abruptly remembered that he said he likes to eat at a small sandwich shop on 3rd street. It wasn’t much, but it was all I had to go on, so I bounded up the stairwell that led to 3rd St.


It took me some time to find that sandwich shop. I had to ask for directions, and apparently, I passed it twice. When I finally found it though, I looked through the window and saw him ordering a sandwich. My heart skipped a beat.


You can do this.


I opened that shop door, strolled in and sat down across from him. He gave me a look that was part surprise, part delight, and part amusement. I gave him an accomplished smirk.


“You owe me your name,” I confidently stated, slightly afraid that he would refuse me and I would be left with nothing.


But he just smiled that dazzling smile and thrust his hand towards me.


“Hi. My name is Steven.”

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