The Underground Man (An Eastern European Woman’s Story)

Eastern European lady

Another beautiful autumn morning. I board the underground at 8:05am as usual. The guy with glasses is sitting on the underground already. He is reading a newspaper near the window. I sit down near him again, hoping he would begin to talk to me.

I have seen this guy on the underground almost every day from Monday to Friday since five months ago. He usually gets off at 8:35am at Stop 33 every morning. I get off the undergroundat 8:45am, as my office hours begin at 9:00am. This guy is quiet, elegant and attractive. The black frame of his glasses makes his face look even more handsome. When I pretend to look at my phone on the underground, I’m actually secretly looking at him. I’m not sure whether he has noticed that already. Hopefully he doesn’t know I really like him.

Again, he gets off the underground at 8:35am today and I arrive at my office before 9:00am. My co-workers in the office have become my friends, so I’ve told them about this guy on the underground and how much I really like him. I’ve told them about him so often that they begin to refer to him as “the underground man”.

“Hey, Amber. How’s the underground man today? Did he speak to you?” Fiona is very curious again.

“Well, no. He hasn’t talked to me at all. Today he is wearing a light grey jacket with dark grey jeans. Very stylish,” I feel excited even when I share some small details about this hot guy, “When he is reading The Daily Telegraph, he looks so tranquil and peaceful. The way he turns every page is very attractive.”

“Why don’t you talk to him first?” Fiona asks this question again.

“But I’m an Eastern European lady. I’m not supposed to approach a man, am I? I should wait until he talks to me first.” I really believe in what I say, for I’m a woman in Eastern Europe.

Kate walks into the office as she is drinking her coffee and says, “Amber, in life you either wait or create. If you are waiting for things to happen to you, you’re not a creator. How long have you been waiting for him to talk to you first? Four weeks? Four months? How much time do you plan to waste?”

What Kate says really struck me. Indeed, why do I have to allow my life to be at the mercy of destiny? I’m lost in thought. “All right, Amber,” says Fiona, “I think Kate is right. You have to do something with it and take the initiative. Be Amber; don’t be Francesca in Bridges of Madison County.  Instead of waiting for things to happen, you always happen to things, don’t you? At least that’s what you normally do at work.”

“Okay,” I reply, “I will take action.”

Speaking of the underground man, my friends in the office have told me to take action for one thousand times already, so I really should do it now.

The next morning, I get on the underground again at 8:05am and see the underground man sitting near the aisle. He has changed his outfit and is wearing all black except his white shirt. This is a very classic look which matches his glasses even better. I have prepared a note in my hand – it’s my email address. I don’t have the courage to give him my phone number and I think giving him my email address is probably less personal and more acceptable.

But I really don’t know how to give him this note on the underground. My heart is pounding; my legs are trembling; my arms are shaking; my palms are sweating. Oh, I do hope the note is not wet.

Twenty-four minutes has passed very slowly. I have had the longest twenty-four minutes in my life. It’s 8:29am already. He is going to get off the underground at 8:35am as usual. Now I only have six minutes to give the note to him. I’ve never been so nervous all my life. Should I give it up?

No, I have to give it to him today because I never know whether I will see him again tomorrow. What if he is going to change his job and won’t catch this underground again in the future? All right. Now it’s 8:32am. He will leave the underground in three minutes. I have to give it to him now.

I stand up and walk towards him. He is still reading the newspaper. I can feel my heart is racing towards my throat.

I give the note to him. I don’t even know how I’ve done it. He doesn’t know what’s happening, so his eyes move away from the newspaper and he looks at me.

“I think we should go out sometime.” I murmured.

I can’t look at him. I simply return back to my seat. But an old lady is sitting at my seat now, so I have to stand in the aisle.

The air on the underground is frozen.

He doesn’t say a word.

I don’t know how or when he left the underground.

At 9:00am, I arrive at my office on time. Fiona and Kate are already there.

As I briefly tell them what I have done this morning, I quickly open my email and I see nothing new in my Inbox.

Absolutely nothing. Now I’m a disappointed Eastern European woman.

I click on “Inbox” every ten seconds. Nothing happens.

Until 3:00pm today, there is still nothing happening in my freaking “Inbox”.

“What you told me to do yesterday has humiliated me in front of everyone on the underground!” I nearly cried because there are tears in my eyes.

Kate and Fiona are very quiet today – all day. Clearly, they can see how anxious and upset I am.

“Now I will have to face him tomorrow morning and Friday morning… and next week! I probably need to change my job so that I don’t have to meet him again on the same damn underground!” I think I’m tears already.

Kate and Fiona look at each other and look at me.

Nothing happens to my Inbox. The underground man doesn’t email me. He doesn’t like me.

Changing jobs is very difficult in this economy and I still need this job to pay my bills. As a 33-year-old independent woman, I have to be responsible for my life, so I simply begin to catch the bus instead of the underground. It takes me more than one hour to go to work by bus. But at least I don’t need to face the underground man and embarrass myself!

As time goes by, nobody is talking about the underground man in the office anymore. Life returns back to normal.

Now it’s summer again. Fiona, Kate and I (three Eastern European ladies) are having lunch in the office. Suddenly, there is a notification on my desktop – a new email.

I clicked on “Inbox” and opened this email:

Hi Amber,

I’m the guy from the underground last year. (Oh God, he doesn’t say he is the underground man.) I’m writing to let you know that my girlfriend and I broke up last week, and I still have your email address, so I decided to contact you and ask you out. Would you like to see Sweet November this Friday night? I can take you to the movies. Do you prefer ice cream or popcorn?

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.  Thanks.



“Kate and Fiona are standing behind me, looking at the email. They are silent for about 20 seconds before they begin to scream.”

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