I can never tell if I love or hate public transport.
I love the fact that everyone is trying to ignore each other, keep themselves to themselves and at all costs avoid eye contact- just like I am. But I hate the fact that losing Mikasa is as easy as breathing in a crowded train station like this.
Here’s a little about me. My name is Eren Jaeger.
I’m a second year at St Maria University living in Sina with my dad and adopted sister.
I’ve got green eyes, tanned skin, a roundish face and glasses to match. My hair is that kind that doesn’t sit straight, never has and I don’t think it ever will. But despite how much I complain about it, with all it’s impossible volume and mess, I’m pleased that it doesn’t listen.
It makes recognising my own reflection slightly easier.
Yeah, I get that might sound slightly odd- why do you need help recognising yourself? Do you not know what you look like?
Well, yeah, I know. Trust me, I know I should know. But I don’t.
I’m a normal teenage kid. Stupid. Reckless. Desperate to fall in love. Except I’m not normal, I want to be, but I’m not. I have something called Prosopagnosia, or in non-medical speak, Face Blindness.
Prosopagnosia (noun), the inability to recognise the faces of familiar people, typically as a result of damage to the brain.
Familiar people. Even people I’ve lived my whole life with.
Even my dad, who’s been trying his hardest since my mother died five years ago to raise my sister and me and balance a career in medicine.
I haven’t told him about the face blindness because he has enough on his plate to stress about and I can’t be dealing with him going all medical on me. I don’t need to be another reason his hair is greying.
I can’t even recognise my own sister. I know that Mikasa has dark hair, chopped into a messy bob, and is almost always wearing a red scarf. That’s her main identifier, and I struggle when she’s not wearing it. But lucky for me, she almost always has it with her.
I haven’t told Mikasa about the face blindness because she would over worry, over mother, over crowd. I don’t need to give her another reason to never let me out of her sight.
I can’t even pick my best friend, Armin, out of a crowd. I know he’s shorter than most- skinny, with blonde hair (also bobbed). I know he has a British accent, which makes things easier. But other than the fact that he normally always has a book in his arms, I struggle with him a lot of the time. There aren’t many British accents around but short blondes are more common than you’d think.
I haven’t told Armin about the face blindness because I don’t know how.
I don’t know how to ask for help, even from someone I’ve known as long as I’ve known Armin. But I try ignore that part of me, the part desperate for help, I just tell myself it’s because I also don’t want him to worry.
Not many people know this about me, and when I say not many people, I mean no one.
I used to think it was easier to just ignore everyone, lock myself away and limit myself to a handful of relationships. But I’ve realised over the years, you can’t shut the whole world out. You’re constantly surrounded by the human race whether you like it or not. We get the train every day for one thing, so I tell myself I should be used to this by now, but every single day I find myself scared to blink in case I lose my sister.
Anxiety’s a bitch.
I work hard to keep my eyes fixed on her now as we push our way through the waves of people. Whenever I think it's easing up another train pulls up and people come clambering out; all arms and shoulders, pushing everyone out of their way.
Mikasa became even more protective after our mother died, kind of like she was trying to replace her. Or at least her role in my life. But this is really the one of the only time of the day I'm grateful for how protective Mikasa is of me. Even if she doesn't know about the whole face blindness thing, she seems to understand I struggle in some way in crowds and grabs onto the sleeve of my jacket to pull me with her as she leads the way.
“Come on- we’re going to miss it.” Mikasa grumbles at me. Of course, she also says this to me every day.
I laugh. “I’m having déjà vu.” I claim. Every day I sleep in, every day we’re rushed to the station and she always uses that line and every day I reply the same way. I guess I could count it as another one of her identifiers.
“Fuck off- come on.”
We seem to be lucky today as we actually don’t miss it. That’s happened once or twice, but as I point out to her, trains from Sina to Maria aren’t exactly few and far between. One every twenty minutes. We would have been fine even if we had missed it. Today, the train pulls up pretty much as soon as we get to the right platform. I step aside ever so slightly to allow the people coming off to move past us and regret my decision instantly as in the rush Mikasa’s grip on my sleeve is lost and she’s swallowed by the crowd. I blink and she’s gone. Her face is instantly wiped from my mind and any one of these people could be my sister for all I know.
“Sorry.” I mumble as a man pushes roughly past me. My apology comes too late though because the man’s already gone off into the crowd- or he might be right next to me still, I can’t tell- and Mikasa’s still lost too. It’s then that I feel the panic raising a little, but I try my best to muffle it, at least until I make it onto the train. I can find my sister when I’m there.
Another push from someone behind is what I need to start moving again. I decided to stop being so polite and manage to get onto the train just before the doors close.
Disorientated but there at least, I blink and look around. I made it, but I’m still Mikasa-less. That’s a problem.
Usually I live by the rule of avoiding faces all together. It’s not like it helps to look at them, so I tend to just ignore them. My eyes settling somewhere else, or have to consciously make eye contact. But, usually in public, if you don’t look at them you can pretend that’s why you don’t recognise them, not because your brain is fucked. But I have to now. I stand, my eyes flicking around the train, trying to find the tell-tale red scarf of my sister, or the dark hair- something.
When I can’t find the scarf, I feel my heart rate pick up a little, unsure if I should move through the crowd and try find it. But knowing Mikasa, she’s probably trying to find her way to me now anyway.
The train pulls to another stop, and I know that St Maria University is next, so for now I push forward a little into the crowd to let more get on the train. I’m standing close to the seats now, my eyes flickering across each of the occupants, trying to tell if one of them is Mikasa. Hoping that I know none of them. I know that she probably wouldn’t have taken the scarf off on the train but there’s always the possibility-
The train jerks again, and I end up following the movement. Being distracted, my footing doesn’t help keep my balance in this situation and in the most over dramatic and cringe-worthy moment of my life, I lose myself. Trip, wobble, fall forward, put my hands out to stop myself. Too late. Life has this really good way of thrusting you into movie like moments. I say movie like, but in reality I know they’re just cripplingly socially awkward. Like I don’t have enough social anxiety to deal with. Thanks world.
Thanks a fucking bunch.
I blink and realise I’m now crushing a not-Mikasa. One arm on the window, one crushing his leg- his coffee down his front.
I decide in that exact moment that I hate trains. Definitely hate them.
“Fucking hell. Do you mind-“ The man curses, his hand coming up to shove me off him. I try an apologetic smile before I see he’s not trying to save his jumper, but the largeish sketchbook that’s sitting on his lap. I take a step back, my face instantly burning up.
“Shit- I’m so sorry. Are you okay? Did it burn you? Your book-“ I start, unsure what to do. I’m just aware that every single pair of eyes that are in this carriage are now on me and this guy is glaring at me like I’m responsible for the world hunger. Or maybe the death of a beloved family pet. All I know is that if looks could kill, I’d be terminally ill right about now.
“I’m fine. Whatever.” He snaps back, moving the take-out cup away from everything. The people sitting next to him try and be subtle about abandoning their seats before the coffee gets on them too, but I’m more worried about his art book.
“Is your book alright? I’m really sorry. Look, use this.’’ I offer my jacket sleeve for him to use as a wipe and his glare narrows.
“It’s fine.” He doesn’t even look at it. I know it’s not. “You’ve done enough. Keep your shitty sleeve dry, we both don’t need to get wet.” I guess that this is true, so I keep my mouth closed for a few more moments. Watching him attempt to clean himself up and the space around him.
“Can I do anything else for you or are you satisfied you’ve ruined enough of my shit?” He asks, sarcasm dripping from his voice. The scowl still creasing his face. I’m starting to think that if I knew him, that would be one of his identifiers. This scowl. Right now, his identifiers are his dark hair, the undercut, the piercings, the tip of a neck tattoo that I can see peaking over his turtle neck and- of course- the dark stain of coffee covering his chest. His jacket is also helpful. Probably the most helpful.
It’s completely unique.
A baggy leather biker jacket, but it’s covered in white pen illustrations, patterns and writing. It’s obviously not printed like that, so he or someone else has hand drawn them and from the sketchbook in front of him, I’m guessing it was him. Some more faded than the others, but there’s a fair few bright white ones on his sleeve. Like he’s constantly adding to it. His jacket is his canvas.
It excites me and instantly I want to ask all about it. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I’ve never been much of a creative, that was always Armin’s territory really. But this guy- you can almost tell instantly, even without the sketchbook, he’s an art student.
I hope that it’s something of a signature clothing item for him. It would make recognising him again a hell of a lot easier. And I don’t know why I do, but I really want to recognise him again.
“I-“ An awkward pause follows, I don’t know why I opened my mouth. I have no idea what I’m going to say. I’ve basically ruined this guys life in fifteen seconds and I’m concerned that everything I say is just going to make it worse. “I’m sorry.” I say again.
He narrows his eyes at me, and I force myself to make eye contact. Force myself to give him one of my well-practised ‘I’m so sorry’ smiles that I usually save for when I miss-recognise someone.
“You said.” He replies. Smile not returned which means I’m not forgiven; noted.
“I’ll get you another coffee?” I try, thinking up another way to make it up for him. It just sucks because I know he’s not bothered by the coffee, that much is evident even to me.
“That sounds like you’re asking me out on a date, brat.” He scoffs, and for a moment I think I’ve made a break through. There’s a slight hint of amusement in his voice. It’s both that and what he says that makes my cheeks burn harder.
“I-um- sorry- I didn’t mean- if-“ I fumble, the guys eyes rolling.
“I was just taking the piss.” He replies. “I don’t care about the coffee.”
“Sorry about your book.” As I expected, that’s the main issue. I feel terrible. “I guess I can’t give you money to replace it.” I say, though if it’s full of his art then even if I got him a replacement book, it wouldn’t be the same.
“No. You can’t.”
“Quit apologising. You’re making me feel guilty.” The man replies.
“Eren.” I hear my name from behind me, my stomach churning as the usual response to hearing it. That’s just what happens. I know that it means someone’s recognised me and I’m going to have to either pretend that I know who they are, play along, or start putting all my effort into looking for clues to how and from where I know them.
I turn and am greeted with a girl’s face, stern expression. “Where did you go- I thought you’d missed the train. Can you not stay by my side for ten seconds without getting lost?” The girl says and that gives me the answer I need for who this is before I even make it down to the red scarf around her neck.
“I’m here.” Is all I answer before I feel the train coming to another slow stop and Mikasa moved to grab my sleeve again. I’m pleased, it stops me losing my balance a second time.
“Come on, it’s our stop.” She points out, starting to leading me through the crowd of people who were either moving towards or away from the doors. I turn my head to look back at the man I fell onto, planning on one last apology before he’s out of my life, but he’s gone. His seat empty. Looking back to where Mikasa was now tugging me. I don’t recognise him, but I recognise the damp sketchbook that he’s still holding in his hand as he steps off the train and disappears.
I do, however, manage to catch the now smudged words of ‘St Maria University’ written in block capitals on a piece of masking tape on the front of the sketchbook.
I don’t catch his name.