He touched her hand as she walked by, on a street in SoHo. She turned, and stopped. It was dark, but the window display lit him up as if on stage. His eyes were fixed on her, in awe, and she tilted her head inquiringly.
“I have to talk to you,” he said. “May I talk to you?”
He was short, well dressed and slightly agitated. Older. She was tall, well dressed and tired after a night of performing. But, as was every time after a show, she was elated, as if still floating above the stage, nurtured by the shared intimacy of the crowd that responded to her and made her feel loved, and she longer had to feel lonely.
Her friends turned to look.
“What would you like to talk about?”
“Can I just tell you how beautiful you are?”
He was sincere and desperate at once, so she nodded: a crumb of admiration from a stranger was like a gift of kindness from above, and she accepted it, grateful yet skeptical.
“I want to hold your hand, and tell you things,” he said and reached for her hand. She withdrew it.
“I’m married, you know.”
“No, that can’t be.” He took a step back, then forward, inspected the rings on her left hand.
“They are real,” she said.
“Are you happily married?” He searched for the answer in her eyes.
She looked at the window display, with an empty-eyed mannequin dressed in orange, and nodded. He didn’t need to know the answer. She didn’t know it herself.
“And I am her lover,” her friend stepped up closer.
The man turned to the woman who had said the words, inspected her reddish hair, ironic smile, and turned back. He was ready to believe it, and that made her even more desirable in his eyes.
“Former lover,” she corrected her friend.
“And future, too.” The women smiled at each other. He nodded. It didn’t matter whether that was true or not. She was like a vision, and he didn’t want to lose it.
“I live nearby,” he said. “Would you like to stop by?”
She shook her head.
“I have to go home. There is a husband waiting for me, and two children.” She paused. “Are you that lonely? Nobody waiting for you at your fancy loft?”
“Nobody,” he said, and took her right hand in his. “I could read you some poems. I’m a poet.”
She looked at him, and didn’t take her hand away. She could feel his loneliness, it was much bigger than hers, but tonight she was still awash in the love she felt onstage, and didn’t want it to dissipate.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I know about lonely. But I’m going home.”
She started walking away, then turned.
“You should write a poem, for me. Tonight.” She told him her name. “Find me, send me the poem, and then I’ll respond. Maybe.”
They walked away, the man standing by the lit window. On the pavement, atop a pile of recycled boxes, lay an enormous photograph, a woman’s portrait, in color. It must have been an ad for a beauty product, or a demo at a branding meeting, and now the face looked solemnly from the shadows of the street, discarded. They laughed at first, and took photos with the woman on the photo, and nearly fell into the pile of cardboards. She thought how the woman on the photograph was recycled, and all alone on the street. But the day they had photographed her, she must have been the center of attention, and all lights and cameras were on her.
She tried not to make any analogies – with her performance, and the man who found her on the street after.
The next morning she received a poem. It was about her teeth, and hands, and rivers flowing into the ocean.
She didn’t answer. The whole thing made her sad. The only difference between her and the poet was that he begged for attention on the street, and she didn’t.
(c) Vica Miller
May 22, 2014