The Ubiquity of Wallflowers

Cell Phone FullBoone

Tina looks out the window of the BART train, as the scenery of the East Bay rolls by. The day is dark and dreary, and I can tell by the way she keeps touching her finger against her lower lip that she wants to have a cigarette. She will have to wait until we get to our destination. There is no smoking on the train.

She needed to go to Concord, she told me, although she didn’t say why. I am going with her, because she hates taking BART alone. She said she doesn’t like going through the tunnel underneath the San Francisco Bay, and she held my hand the entire stretch of the way. Her grip was tight and her hand was cold like marble. When we finally rose up from the tunnel and into the light, she squeezed my hand once before releasing it and putting hers into her lap.

A brief break opens in the clouds, and the sun pours like honey over her face and hair. She closes her eyes against the sudden brightness, and I stare at her without having to feel self-conscious about it. We slept together in the same bed a few nights ago, just slept. I loaned her a T-shirt to wear, and dug out an old pair of sweatpants and shirt for myself. She was asleep instantly, while I spent a long night of being hyperaware of her body next to mine.

She touches her finger to her lip again, and I wonder what it would be like to kiss her.

The clouds close together again, and she opens her eyes and looks out over the passing cityscape once more. I look away and down the length of the train car.

My phone vibrates softly in my pocket, a text notification. I pull it out and check it: Rivi. You aren’t home, it reads. Why aren’t you at home? I need you to be at home.

I type a response: On the way to Concord with Tina. What’s up?

I left something at your apartment and I need to get it back.

You haven’t been in my apartment in six months. What did you leave?

Actually, it’s your car keys, she says. I need to borrow your car.

I thought you didn’t drive.

Maybe you left a window open.

I didn’t, I say.

I’ll bet you did. I’ll check.

Borrow Sebastian’s car. He doesn’t need it for anything.

I already tried. He’s not home.

Tina kicks my foot with hers. I look up, and she nods questioningly at my phone. “It’s Rivi,” I explain. “She wants to borrow my car.”

“I thought she didn’t drive,” she says.

“Exactly,” I say.

You should really leave your bathroom window open, Rivi texts. This would be the most convenient thing for me.

“Why does she want your car?” Tina asks.

“Hang on,” I say. I dial Rivi’s number and wait as the call goes through.

“I think I can get this window open without breaking it,” she says when she answers.

“Rivi, don’t break my window. I have my keys with me, so it won’t do you any good.”

“Don’t you have a spare?” she asks.


She exhales heavily. “Well, that’s really bad planning, you know. If you lose your key, you’re just screwed.”

“Call Sebastian,” I tell her. “Or get an Uber.”

“Ugh,” she says. “I’ll walk before I Uber. I have to have some trust in the person driving me around not to be insane or suicidal or anything. It’s why I don’t like to fly, either.”

Tina puts her head against the window and closes her eyes. She touches her lip again.

“Rivi, I’m going to go. Call Sebastian. Don’t break out my window.”

“You’re no help here, Boone,” she says.

“Goodbye, Rivi.”

“No help at all,” she says.

I disconnect the phone and return it to my pocket. Tina speaks to me, with her eyes still closed. “You should ask her on a date. Her boundaries are so far out, they wrap back around themselves from the opposite direction.”

“Not going to happen,” I say. “Crazy girls are Sebastian’s thing, not mine.”

“She’s not crazy.” Tina touches her lip again. “She just doesn’t have time to be a wallflower.”

“Takes one to know one,” I say.

She doesn’t say anything to that, so I keep silent as well. In another few minutes and a handful of miles, I begin to think that Tina has fallen asleep, but then she open her eyes and looks at me. “We’re all wallflowers around here, Boone. All of us.”

“Except Rivi,” I say.

Tina closes her eyes, and doesn’t reply.

Two more stops until Concord.


  1. I think your extended break has served you well, man of rose-colored glasses.

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