Charlie and I met on the subway on my first visit flat-hunting in London. I was nervous, convinced by my anxiety-ridden mother that all people in cities watned to rob me, and no one on the subway would hestitate to knife me if my seat was desirable. A 6pm subway was the most crowded I had seen all day, and every seat was taken. Of course. I surveyed the crowd warily, scoping out potential murderers. I spotted an old woman texting faster than I could; a man in a tuxedo muttering to himself; a twenty-something girl with a hot pink ponytail, a faded Care Bears tee shirt, and headphones; and a sleeping trasngender in a rather becoming teal sundress. I dismissed them all as only mildly homicidal.
The subway train began to move, and, unaccustomed to such things as I was, I lost my balance, bumping into a businessman with somewhat shabby shoes. I apologized profusely and tried to not stress out too much. I failed.
"Um...excuse me...I can, y'know, share if you like." The voice was high and soft, but not shrill or whiny. I looked around and saw pink-hair-girl looking at me. She had scooted over in her spacious seat to allow room for me to sit. I quickly took a second to appraise her. I spotted about eight brightly colored bracelets, a pair of sneakers mainly comprised of various hues of duct tape, and a rainbow umbrella; but no machete was in sight, so I carefully sat down beside her, wary of the train moving and shaking.
"I'm Charlie," she introduced, and flashed a smile. She had nice teeth.
"Rosemary. Thanks for letting me sit. I'm not used to subways, if you could tell." I smiled apologetically. She laughed, not polite and detached, but as though she actually cared about what I was saying. The conversation lapsed into a semi-awkward silence, both of us searching for something to say, the close proximity making it impossible to politely ignore each other for the remainder of the ride. Subway seats are only designed for one, after all. Grasping for any conversation, I gestured to the headphones around Charlie's neck.
"What were you listening to?" Wordlessly, she offered me one. I politely accepted, though I could only imagine what sort of screaming and headbanging could be perforating her eardrums. Carefully lifting the headphone to my ear, I instead heard the dulcet strains of a gentle piano melody. I looked at Charlie, surprised and intrigued.
It was her turn to look surprised. Then she grinned.
"Yeah, Toccatina. You recognized that?"
"Of course! I wouldn't have you pegged for a classical person, though. Pantera, Alesana, that I could see."
She laughed that laugh again and smiled. I noticed she had grey eyes.
"It's the hair, isn't it?"
"Well..." I tried to be diplomatic, but the way her eyes crinkled up when she smiled set me at ease. "Yeah. I don't normally make assumptions, you know, but my mom has been freaking me out into thinking everyone on the subway is going to murder me, so I've been making a lot of assumptions, you know..." I trailed off, realizing I was babbling. Charlie, however, seemed intrigued.
"Have you ever been to London before?" she inquired.
"Once. When I was a kid. But we took taxis, which are traumatic enough." She chuckled knowingly. "I've been looking for a flat here, but anything in my price range seems to be rather...dismal."
Charlie smiled sympathetically.
"I know how you feel. Going the starving musician route means sometimes living in a space the size of a bathroom stall." I was surprised.
"How did you know..."
"That you're a musician? I have a sixth sense. I can tell these things." I continued to stare at her, and finally she broke down. "Okay, okay. The 'Starving Musicians Duet Better' pin on your bag was a bit of a giveaway."
It was my turn to smile.
"Would you like to go out for drinks?"
I was about to answer when I realized I had asked the question. Me, the girl who as a high school freshman was voted "Quietest." Who had no friends except my German Shepherd, Kitty, until sixth grade. Who had just asked a complete stranger whom I had just met on the subway out for drinks.
By the time I had realized this, I saw Charlie's eyes crinkle again.
"I'd love to! I know this great little place downtown..." she trailed off, uncertain, not wanting to appear too eager.
"I'm up for it. I couldn't find a stop sign in this city, much less a place with good drinks."