I thought that from the steps of the Metropolitan, one could see the entire city. Maybe not literally, but the atmosphere was so perfectly characterized by the passing runners, women in heels pushing strollers, and teenagers looking for s soul in the midst of skyscrapers. Everyone was searching for whatever they were missing. Everyone wanted way too much.
As for me, I was content to sit and watch, knowing full well that there was not a person in the world who's mind I was on. And that was okay.
Sometimes when I was alone I allowed myself to think of my parents. I so wanted to believe they were with me, watching me, protecting me. I thought of my run in with Michael, my twin who had so carelessly thrown his life away. Obviously he didnt care if Mom or Dad saw him now, all lost in his drug induced haze. That was something I would never understand.
I had almost called my friend Harper, a quiet girl who tended to look for happiness in all the wrong places. We might have sat in the park and talked, grabbed a bite at one of the cafes that dotted Fifth Avenue. In the end I'd decided that the sun and the song of the city were enough company for me.
"Nice day out."
The sudden voice made me jump, looking up and squinting against the sun. Through the blinding light I could just make out the silhouette of a man, maybe twenty, with dark brown hair and a sensuous smile.
I was quick to divert my gaze then. "It is," I murmured, although it had seemed to me suddenly hotter.
"Mind if I sit?" When I didnt respond, he came around to sit on the step beside me. i chanced a look at him again; with the sun out of my eyes I could see the empty grey of his and the exhaustion etched into his face. The man pulled out a pack of cigarettes, offered me one which I declined. He was quick to light it up but polite enough to turn away when he exhaled the smoky breath.
I tried not to wonder too much as to why this man was sitting beside me, striking up a pointless conversation. There was a sort of unspoken code in New York that people minded their own business and never interferred with the constant ebb of things. But something about him kept me stealing glances, stopped me from taking off.
The silence must have been too much for him, although I barely noticed it, becase he spoke again. "What brings a pretty girl to the Met all by herself?" Where were my insticts? Why hadnt my alarm sent me running? I offered him a delicate smie, hating how aware I was of the distance between us. Six inches. Maybe less.
"You said youself it's anice day," I retorted. My tone was snippier than intended, and I thought he looked somewhat offended. I quickly backtracked in attempt to redeem myself. "I mean, I just dont like staying around my place much."
He nodded slowly. "I know how that is," he muttered. more to himself than me.
Some of the tension seemed to have faded. I noted the smile upon my face and the careless way he inhaled and exhaled the cigarette. There was almost something graceful about the way he did it. Not like the secret puffs Michael sometimes took out his bedroom window. This man embraced it like it was an art.
I almost dared to speak again, remove my shy mask and strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. Because didnt everyone start out a stranger? Why did people so quickly assume that any friendly passerby was a threat?
But already the man was rising, flicking the last of his cigarette to the bottom of the steps. I sat by awkwardly, waiting to see if he would talk again. I wasnt surprised when he did. "I hope to see you around." A smile crossed my lips at that. Something about him seemed to me so overly grand, so dramatic. I longed to come up with some witty, clever response, something about how the city was filled with millions of people, and then perhaps he would tell me that I was an unforgettable face in the crowds.
Instead I only nodded, murmrued a soft okay. I watched him walk away, a complete stranger. I didnt even know his name. I pretended my heart wasnt fluttering, told myself I would forget.