As the doors opened, Fede walked into the subway car for another day of observation. Fede, an introverted, best-selling author in his forties, rode these trains daily for inspiration for his novels. However, no one knew who he was because he wrote under the pseudonym, “Fred Ice.” He had kept complete anonymity in his writing. Fred Ice’s popular novels were all based on happenings in the New York City subways.

As part of his routine, Fede rode the train dressed in different styles on Mondays through Thursdays. Although he did not interact with people, he observed their treatment and acknowledgment (or lack thereof) based on his appearance. On Fridays, he changed it up – this was the day that he would try to remain as invisible as possible and merely observe others and their interactions with each other. He liked observing people, but not interacting with them. Although he had a brilliant mind and could have had many different professions, he preferred writing because it was something he could do on his own, without interacting with others.

On one Friday, Fede found more than an inspiration while observing. He sat in a corner, hidden as usual. The train arrived at a crowded stop, people pushed themselves in, and one lady with two daughters, a teenager by her side and a toddler in her arms, almost got caught in the closing doors. She just barely made it in the car. This caught Fede’s attention. Immediately, his mind started writing a story about her, and he realized this lady would be the main character of his new novel.

Her name was Diana, but it took Fede quite a few morning rides on that subway line to find that out. He realized he could not do his usual Monday through Thursday outfit changes on the same subway line if he was going to observe Diana, so he decided to be one character, a businessman. When the train arrived at Diana’s stop, he would make sure he was in the same car as her. It was easier than he imagined to observe her, since she was on the same schedule Monday through Friday, bringing her children to school.

A few months passed and one day, Fede went to a café for coffee after his usual train ride. He was in line waiting for his order when Diana walked into the same café and ordered right after him. He saw her look at him, and he wanted to leave, but he had to wait for his order. Then Diana had to wait for her order and was right next to him. She kept looking at him, and Fede tried to avoid eye contact with her. Just as he received his order and was walking away, Diana said, “Hey, you look so familiar. I think we take the same train each morning.” Fede was mortified because this now meant that Diana noticed how much Fede was looking at her each morning since he had been intensely studying her for months. Though embarrassed, he began conversing with her and started to feel at ease. They walked together, and he began to get to know the beautiful person behind the beautiful smile.

A walk that lasted only about ten minutes felt like two hours for Fede, and he didn’t want it to end. Despite all his rules for observation, he wanted to interact with Diana and find out more about her, not just for his book, but for himself. He had found himself genuinely attracted to Diana as a person, rather than a character, so he invited her to dinner, and she gladly accepted the invitation.

Fede was nervous about this date for many reasons. First, he had not been on a date in months. Second, if the date did not go well, it would disrupt the production of his novel. He had just about finished writing the story about Diana, so if she didn’t live up to his expectation, he would have to change his story.

Their date went well, and at the end of the date, Diana invited Fede up to her apartment. Although Fede wanted to go, he had to decide at that point. What was more important – the novel or Diana? He chose his novel. Although he liked Diana, it wasn’t logical to choose Diana instead of his novel.

Upon his decline, Diana felt embarrassed, so they parted ways that night without even a kiss. As Fede walked home, he began to regret his choice but thought it was for the better.

After that awkward night, Fede decided not to ride Diana’s train anymore. He already got what he needed for his novel, which he was due to finish and send for publication very soon.

In the next few months, he thought a lot about Diana, but wouldn’t dare reach out to her. They had each other’s phone numbers, and he hoped that Diana would just send him a message, but that never happened. He began occasionally riding her train again in hopes that he would see her, but he didn’t, since it was the summer, and there was no school. He also walked by her apartment building hoping to see her around there, but he never did.

Then it was September, and schools had reopened. Fede began riding Diana’s train again. It was the first day of school, and Diana entered Fede’s subway car. He saw her, but she didn’t see him. The car was so crowded, and Fede desperately tried to maneuver around people to talk to Diana. They arrived at the next stop, and Fede saw a man get into the subway car and embrace Diana. At that point, Fede was not far from Diana and tried to discretely leave the car when the door closed on his briefcase. The people in the car yelled for the conductor to open the door. With this incident, Diana noticed Fede. For a moment, they stared at each other, but neither of them spoke.

Fede got off the train contemplating how much time had passed, how he should have texted or called her, and how maybe they could have been happy together. He wondered who exactly the man with her was. Had he lost his chance with her forever?

Although he could not gain the time he lost, he could use the present time to do something. He texted Diana and waited for her response as time slowly passed.