Jim Halpert was late.
It wasn’t his usual late, the kind where he’d take a 5-minute stop to pick up an overpriced coffee on his walk to the station (because some mornings he felt like he deserved it.) No. It was a different late today: a ‘whoops I’ve slept through my 10 alarms’ kind of late. And as he hurried down the steps of the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets station, fancy cup of coffee in his left hand, Jim wondered what kind of miracle it would take to get him into work on time.
Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets station was as dingy and cold as any other subway station in downtown Brooklyn. He had found that almost everyone who passed through there was as late as he was, with their heads ducked down, rushing down the platform with all sorts of papers and bags in their arms, speaking in hurried voices down their cell-phones as they dodged through the crowds of school kids and commuters. He’d love to watch them, stood comfortably against the wall by the platform, sipping on moderately cold coffee with a smirk on his lips. Never once did he think he’d become one of them.
While everyone was rushing by with ducked heads and important papers, throughout his time in Brooklyn, Jim had noticed how easy it was to ignore everyone else in the station. He’d always taken the time to drop loose change into the cups, hats (and once even a lap) of the homeless, had the courtesy to offer a good morning to those making their living by the platform, and had never understood how everyone could bustle past them
Today, Jim Halpert was starting to understand. Everything about Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets station was rubbing him up the wrong way, from the loud buskers to the rowdy schoolboys. He was so wound up by the time he got to the edge of the platform that he almost didn’t notice the girl walking by him, clutching a map in her hands, desperately asking people for directions.
He didn’t think himself much of an expert, but Jim reckoned he was pretty good at remembering faces, even the bland and boring ones that passed through the station every day, and hers was certainly not a face he’d seen before.
It barely took him a second to take a step back and tap her on the shoulder, offering her his best smile. “Hey, uh, are you okay?”
She spun on her heel to face him, her wide, stressed features relaxing with relief. She sighed, her arms falling to her sides. “Oh thank God. Finally, someone with a heart.” She scowled over her shoulder, like she was directing her comment to anyone who’d ignored her. “Do you know how to get here?” She thrust her map into his hands, pointing at the red-circled ‘Pratt Institute’ with a shaking finger.
Jim raised his eyebrows, recognising the school from a couple of flyers he’d seen around. An art student? Fancy, he thought, returning the map to the mysterious girl before nodding. “Well, you’re in luck since I’m a subway expert.” She laughed, then, which made his heart flutter in his chest, but he just told himself he’d had too much caffeine. “All you have to do is hop on the train in about…” He glanced at his watch “1 minute, and catch it all the way to Clinton-Washington Avenues Station. Then it’s about an 8-minute walk to the famous Pratt Institute.”
“Thank you, thank you so much.” She beamed, throwing her arms around his neck, hugging him quickly before the train arrived. “Look, I don’t want to sound desperate but, do you think I could stick with you for a bit? In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m not exactly familiar with all of this.”
“Oh, sure.” Jim smiled kindly, offering her his hand to greet her. “I’m Jim, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you.” She smiled, giving his hand a gentle shake. “I’m-”
She was interrupted by the familiar rumble of the train coming towards the station, its halt sounding with a loud screech that made her take her hand from Jim’s and cover her ears.
“You’ll get used to that” He laughed, taking her elbow to walk them to the doors. “We should hurry, though, get on there before all the good seats are taken.”
Jim let the girl take the only seat in their carriage, standing with a firm grip on the pole by the doors, his usual spot on a morning like that. They didn’t talk much, only giving each other a wide eyed glance when a strange man with hair parted down the middle and round glasses walked by them stiffly, muttering something about the earth needing a new plague.
Their time together was only short, since she was getting off much earlier than he was, and after 5 minutes of stealing occasional glances at her sketchbook and the barrette in her hair, the girl was gathering her things and looking up at him with a smile.
“Well, this is me.” She was practically beaming from ear to ear as she brushed past him, waiting for the doors to open. “It was really lovely to meet you, subway expert. Thanks for the help.”
Jim watched as she stepped onto the platform, waiting until she’d disappeared into the crowds of people before he turned around, soon enough to see a man rush to the doors with a small book in his hands, calling “‘Ey, miss, you forgot your uh…” The doors had shut before he could say another word, and the man turned to Jim, offering him the book.
“Give this to your friend when you see her again, will ya?”
He didn’t give him much time to answer, since he was plodding back down the carriage before Jim could inform him that he had no idea who that woman was. Wordlessly, tucked the book into his satchel, shaking his head with a smile as he wondered if the mysterious subway girl was the miracle he’d been looking for that morning.
Perhaps Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets station wasn’t so bad after all.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Chapter End Notes:
Challenge: spot the Dwight in this chapter.