I walked right past the address that was scrawled on the back of the dry cleaning receipt. The area of the city was familiar, filled with offices and corner bars, bakeries. Stopping to ask a doorman, I felt my cheeks hot when he said that I was already at the right address, a posh sea-front hotel with, indeed, a bar. He opened the door, and I walked in, attempting an air of confidence despite my misgivings.
I had gotten on the trolley yesterday to escape my overall ennui, looking at the ocean for an afternoon, walking in the cold sand to clear my head after the week’s overwhelming events. My job is killing me, I think sometimes, anxious I am from the tragedies that derail lives, the ongoing sagas of despair that I know just long enough to see how deep they go. And then, at times I am so touched by the kindness of strangers, the love of families, the sheer sweetness of devotion over years and years. It is life, I realize, life uncensored. I want to tell the stories, and yet am bound by respect for privacy, for the promise of confidentiality. And so it remains within me, passion desiring expression, if abstraction. Right now I come to the sea to jump into the water and swim, cry saltwater tears, laugh in the waves.
The snow is about to fall–I let the water hit my feet and numb them until I am in actual pain. Then I seek my solace instead in walking, then riding back in a near empty train, damning my own self-sufficiency as I pull out my grocery list, remember all the things I need to do.
He stands against the window and looks at me as I sit back and look up myself. At first I wonder if it is coincidence, but he is still looking back across the near-empty train, smiling, then yes, taking the seat in front of me at the next stop.
My hair is blown, messy, my skin all red from the cold wind, my old coat and bag just not the thing to wear to the city–and in fact, I never meant to go to the city, but just to pass through, invisible. But he sees me, I know.. I see him with his sharp lines and groomed nails, details, am surprised as he stands, then shoves a piece of paper into my hand as he whispers “lovely, just lovely” and then gets off at the next stop.
I am here, standing in the huge lobby, see round the corner the blue lights high above a bar, walking closer, gaze at the exotic bottles on glass shelves–so modern, so chic, and I am perhaps less weather-worn now, myself, my disheveled hair in its right place, the cashmere, the skirt, and heels, and all the effort beneath the clothing–perfume and fairy dust, the new lingerie, the finished stockings. My excitement already buzzing, now simmering all the more as I look around dizzy at the surroundings, the possibilities I don’t know that he will notice, but I will, and I walk closer. I turn to watch the bar for a few minutes to look for him–whatever his name is–5pm, yes today, yes here.
And he is here, writing in a notebook, looks up.
“I wasn’t sure you would show up,” he says.
“I thought perhaps you were just playing a trick on me–I nearly missed this place…” I say, noticing his fountain pen, his accent, his smile relaxing a little.
“Ah yes.. a trick. You don’t know me, after all.”
“Yes, for example.. names. But then, you don’t know me, either.”
The night is young.