Zoë Folbigg remembers the day a beautiful stranger walked into the train car of her usual commute. She’d seen all the regulars and was used to their faces, but this man was new, and her interest was instantly piqued.
But his nose was always stuck in a book.
“I was a jeans and Converse girl before that, but I thought, ‘Right, well, I’ll make more of an effort,'” Folbigg decided. So she started to dress up a bit more during her morning commutes.
Coincidentally, they were always in the same car, and even the fact that he didn’t look up from his book didn’t discourage her, because “he was always reading something lovely, he was always reading something I had read,” she said.
“It was definitely love at first sight for me. I know that sounds crazy but that’s how I felt,” Folbigg said.
She even told her work colleagues about him, and it became a regular point of conversation.
“How was ‘Train Man’ today? What was he wearing? Did he look up?” they would ask her. And the answer to that last question was always no, he never did.
Then one of her coworkers told her she should drop her train ticket in front of him, and strike up a conversation when he returned it.
Having nothing to lose, Folbigg did just that. And then waited for nearly an hour, because he didn’t look up from his book, much less notice her ticket on the ground.
But then eventually, he did pick it up to hand back to her.
“And I kind of just squeaked because I was so nervous,” Folbigg said. Then she said thanks, and the conversation ended right there.
Folbigg said that it wasn’t that she didn’t date during this year, but she would go on one date, and realize that she was not as interested in her date as she was in “Train Man.”
Her friends were exasperated: “You don’t even know ‘Train Man!'”
But Folbigg was a romantic and wanted to hold out for a little more. After all, she hadn’t even really tried talking to him yet.
Then May rolled around—her birthday. “I thought everyone should do something a little bit frivolous on their birthday,” she said.
Still too timid to talk to him, Folbigg’s idea was to write a letter, and then hand it to him before her stop, so she wouldn’t have to watch him read it.
In the letter, Folbigg introduced herself, then asked him out for a drink and included her email.
“If not, happy travels, and I’ll leave you in solitude,” she wrote.
Then she fretted all day, wondering if an email would come.
At 5:30, a message appeared in her inbox with the subject line: “The guy on the train.”
“My heart stopped, I foolishly told all my colleagues,” Folbigg remembered. His name was Mark. Then she read his reply.
“Thank you, that was a lovely thing to do, I never would Have had the guts to do something like that. But unfortunately I have a girlfriend and I don’t think she’d like it if we went out for a drink. Happy birthday. Hope you have a nice day.”
And that was that. Or so Folbigg thought. They went back to being silent commuters on the same train car.
Eight months later, she got an email from him. He was single (he had been for months) and had been thinking of her—“Would you like to go out for a drink?”
It came out of left field, but what was even more surprising was that he was everything Folbigg wanted him to be. There was nothing awkward about their first date, they had so many things in common, and both of them emphatically wanted to continue seeing each other.
Three months later, he moved in, and the honeymoon period still wasn’t over.
Then, after three years, the two of them went travelling on vacation.
In Australia, they took a train. And during the ride, Mark had a question for her.
“Will you marry me?”
Fast forward to today, Zoe and Mark have two children, and her romantic comedy-esque love story has been turned into a book.
As for his part, Mark was not used to reading contemporary love novels targeted toward women, but he read “The Note” authored by Folbigg, and loved the relationship she described.
“It’s been fun,” Folbigg said. “He didn’t read it until I got the book deal … but he loved it.”