I hop onto the rather-full metro.
I stand near the front, gripping the pole so I don’t fall as the train lurches forward.
At the next stop, a man bounds onto the train. He’s sweating, wearing a Nike neon running shirt and black running shorts. He’s panting, and glancing at his heart rate monitor/odometer/large watch that makes him seem like a better runner than he probably is. (Trust me, I would know. I wear my Garmin running watch just so people think I know what I’m doing).
I notice his neon orange shirt matches his shiny neon orange Nike running shoes.
And then I notice the tag on the outside of his left shoe.
Those are the new summer 2015 long distance running Nike shoes every long distance runner has been dying to get their hands on. (well, feet on).
I’m impressed. This man knows his footwear.
I want to talk to him. I want to ask him why he took the Metro to go on a run. I want to ask him so many things… What’s your favorite running trail in DC? Do you run half marathons? Because me too! Have you done the one here? I’m considering it, but I wondered how hilly it is? Who told you to buy those shoes? How long have you wanted to buy them? Did you read about them in the last issue of the Runner’s World magazine? Because, again, me too! And don’t you just love that magazine? And, wait, why are you running with the tag still on the shoes? Oh no, did you steal them?
I watch him as he keeps looking up and then back down at those shoes, beaming. He wants someone to notice them. He wants someone to validate what a big deal it is that he wore his Nike orange running shirt that matches perfectly with his new shoes and went on a nice long run on some secret trail in DC.
But no one cares.
At least, not for a little while.
Sitting two rows back, a girl is resting her head on the window. At the next stop, she stands to get off the train.
Her sweat leaves a mark on the window. She doesn’t notice.
I do a double take as I realize that she is wearing the exact same shoes as that man. And an equally big running watch!
She notices the man, smiling and wanting to give him one of those, “hey, yeah, I run too and nice shoes” looks, but he’s too busy beaming at his feet.
She keeps smiling, glancing from her shoes to his, his to hers, repeat.
Hoping he will finally look up, she sighs dramatically.
But of course he doesn’t look up.
The train slows, nearing a stop. Realizing she is running (no pun intended) out of time to connect with this man, she lifts her feet, doing the classic “high knees” running move.
She looks over at him again, more eagerly this time.
Desperate, she pumps her knees a little higher. She clearly wanted the man to notice. I mean, why else would she be doing high knees on the metro? It’s not like she needs to warm up for the escalator out of the station…
He keeps smiling at his feet. The man is staring right at the tag on his shoes. How does he not think that maybe he should take that off?
Oh, right. He wants someone to notice his shoes so badly that he doesn’t even take the tag off.
How does he not notice a woman doing high knees? I guess the same way no one else on the train notices, either.
The train lurches to a stop. She takes one more glance at him, and then steps off as the doors open.
Agh, the missed moment! The two runners that could have connected over their shared shoes, their shared running watches, their shared sweat.
I wonder about that woman. Maybe her favorite running buddy just moved away and she’s been desperate to find a new one. Maybe that man was supposed to be her new buddy! Maybe she just needed someone to understand how important shoes and watches are. I know that man clearly understood. I know he was longing for the same understanding from someone else.
I wonder about that man. Maybe he’s endorsed by Nike. Maybe he runs to forget about his past. Maybe running is all he has left. Or maybe the shoes were a present from his fiancé and he just can’t wait to take the metro over to her house to tell her how much he loves his shoes and how great his run was and how excited he is to marry a girl who understands the importance of quality running shoes. And maybe he could have told his fiancé how even a woman on the metro noticed and isn’t that cool?
That man and that woman missed the moment. The simple, beautiful moment. The opportunity for connection.