Jules was too late to retrieve his tea. He was on the train before he realized what had happened. He’d only meant to leave it for a second, just enough to adjust his son, who was strapped to his chest. The baby was getting too big for the sling, but Jules was a tall, broad gentleman and the contraption still had some mileage left. It had been perfectly made, that tea. Jules went out of his way to the corner grocery for that particular brand, whole milk, and his favorite sweetener.
Now inside the car, clutching a pole, Jules looked up, then down, and tried his level best not to grind his teeth. He didn’t have any reading material unpacked, because he was going to spend five stops DRINKING TEA. Oswald, Os, their son, was sleeping like a stone. All this valuable time, wasted. He shouldn’t feel this way. He should be smiling and carrying on like a blowsy father. He and Mags had been trying for three years to conceive. Os was such a gift, he knew that, he did. At least his shoes were comfortable.
From the opposite end of the car, a small, wiry man wearing slacks, a light windbreaker and a bent Mets baseball cap, waved excitedly at Jules. Standing slightly and pointing toward his behind, the man indicated he was ready to give up his seat. This was subway math: keep guard over where you’re sitting until you make eye contact with the individual you’ve designated to take your place. Jules shook his head and the wiry man acknowledged the turn-down, smiled harder, and sat. Os fussed a little. Jules began to rub his back and sway.
“You look tired,” the Mets man shouted at Jules, breaking the silence in the car, which was quite full, but with mournful morning commuters. Jules shook his head no. It was not worth wading through bodies, bags, newspapers and e-readers. The Mets fan kept looking at Jules, though. He still had something to convey.
“God bless you, sir,” he called as if he were trying to sing. “ Your baby is beautiful. You are beautiful. It’s a beautiful day.”
Jules took a pause and then curtly smiled. “Thank you,” he said as businesslike as he was able. “Have a nice day.”
“Oh, I will! I’m seeing my daughter today. She’s twelve. We’re going to a Mets game.”
The car was stopping, thankfully. Jules decided this was the day to be late to the office, to trip across time, to pretend he always got off at this stop. This was the day when everything was off by one note. He leapt off the car and took the stairs two at a time, on a hopeful search for English Breakfast tea. A smile had overcome his face. His jaw was relaxed. An astute, vibrating Mets fan had changed his day.