subway love – a graduate dissertation

8:36 AM. You’re crammed against the door of the packed F train, red solo cup of coffee in your hand. It doesn’t taste terrible, but at this point you’re not even sure if the caffeine is just a placebo to get you through the morning. The man next to you is pouring sweat through his work clothes, the woman across from you looks halfway to the grave. The only saving grace is the three-minute countdown to Broadway-Lafayette, where at least you’ll be able to breathe again. “Things could be worse…” you tell yourself, “at least it’s not Monday.”

You look up, and there she is.    


This is New York City, you see hundreds of beautiful people everywhere you look. She’s not the prettiest girl you’ve seen this week, not even the prettiest today. But this is different. It’s not that you’re attracted to her – you’re attracted to an ethos. An idea in your own soul projected onto another person standing twenty feet down a crowded train car. All of a sudden you’re excited about absolutely nothing, butterflies in your stomach not even your breakfast sandwich could give you (a different kind of love for a different day). Why has today instantaneously gotten better? She’s reading a book/listening to music/staring off into the abyss, it doesn’t matter. She’s there and you’re there and the hordes of people standing between you have disappeared. Think Harold and Kumar meets The Notebook.

That’s subway love.



/səbˌwā · ləv/


  1. definition:  unrequited love found in the depths of humanity, a hopeless place where everything and nothing is possible. happens every three to four months, with a feeling of euphoria lasting up to four hours.
  2. synonyms:  infatuation of the soul, lurve, bae.
  3. origin:  old English of Germanic origin; from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit transmuted by Hermes himself.


The beauty to note is that you’re fully aware you’ll never speak to her, and that’s what makes it that much more real. It’s not her, it’s the idea of her. It’s the idea that through every struggle and ounce of pressure you face there can still live that shred of hope that keeps you going. Every bad date, every rejection, every single friend on your Facebook news feed who suddenly decided to get engaged doesn’t matter anymore – she does. You wonder what stop she’ll get off at, what her favorite coffee shop is, her dreams, aspirations, thoughts on war and peace and harambe and everything else all at once.

And then the doors open up at 23rd and before you even know it she’s gone. Just like that.

You’re not upset. You don’t feel empty either. It’s a boost of positive energy no amount of espresso or plaudits from your boss could come close to giving you that morning. You want to share it with the world but it doesn’t make sense.

But that’s okay. It’s subway love.

‘Tis better to have subway loved and lost, than never to have subway loved at all.

-Jafar from Aladdin

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