Serendipitous Soul: A Serial Story — Part 1
Just My Imagination
Deep morning city lights, all rounded edges and first sleep. A cab runs by and the chrome tires keep spinning. My eyes want to squint. I’m not ready to fall down.
There’s a cost to flexing your schedule to get the last hour of work in. The purgatory of New York City at three in the morning.
The dark-skinned man who keeps the deli by the hotel stays open all night. The steps down off Lexington are slimy. Neon flickers. I want some Sweet Tarts.
She appears at the counter while I fumble for change. A narrow sliver into a velvety, dark crevice. Tumbling hair. The lipstick unnaturally bright and red. It freezes me. The man knows her name. She wants Marlboro Lights. I crave one.
– Have a good night, Fate.
– May you go safely into the mountains, sahib.
Lisping and trilling, light laughter, brushing by me so that I feel something, but she couldn’t have touched me. Hunched by the black iron railing snapping the lighter. Everything motionless. The eyes lift, expectant.
– Lend a hand?
– For one.
– This or this?
She holds up the pack and her hand, lighter curled into her palm, quintessence and grace aligned in the angle of her index finger, the curl of the tight flesh at the joint of her thumb making the curl of her smile lift my fog, so I cup her hand and slip the lighter out.
– Both maybe, Fate.
– Your name?
The laugh again and that makes everything melt into something else. She’s beautiful and distinct. She holds smoke in her narrow chest, a black and white moment, the grey hanging around her like Lauren Bacall, husky and knowing.
– I might be yours, though.
– Your Fate. We’ll just have to find out.
She lives with her brother in a walk up in Williamsburg on a street that dead-ends at an old useless park. Most nights she’s got the last shift at a jazz joint where she works the front tables. A director is workshopping a play she finished about a girl who gets her first period and has visions. Sometimes she gets commercial work. She writes letters to the editor. She’s got parents in a cozy little home in the country. They are a little older than me.
We meet in the dark empty hours of the night and the winnowing luminescence of dawn. When the plane dips into the inky black of the unknowing, I search her out. She’s at the end of different bars. She takes shots of whiskey.
I keep searching for her.
– What do you want from me?
She shrugs. Then she swings her hair aside.
– You don’t want to be with me.
– You aren’t someone who can’t be with someone.
– I’m not good for anyone. I can’t be.
Then I tell her stories about her in the future, re-interpret the life she’s in now, inflate the sadness until it lifts up through the tin ceiling, wafts past the sleeping couples, the lonely singles, the slumbering old men and women.
She looks at me and smiles.
– You see the whole world.
Now the moment comes. An upgrade to a suite. Tickets to the symphony. Snow falls in April. Our dry hands are locked. We don’t talk. The snow hides the rough stone and discolored lichen on the balcony. She turns away. The bed is low. My fingers touch the carpet. She lowers herself on me. It is silent
– I’m seeing Javier tonight to run lines.
– That late? I won’t get in until 11.
– I’m on early tomorrow. Need rest.
– Are you better from that flu?
– My throat hurts.
– I can bring you some more Matzoh ball soup.
The smiling laugh again. I want it captured in my phone so I can play it whenever I need it.
– Not tonight. When are you back?
– Let’s see then.
My hand shakes when I put the credit card down.
Danielle holds the silver bracelet to the light. She smiles and slips it onto her wrist. It hangs loose. Her eyes are bold.
– For your little sister?
– Her thirtieth birthday. A party.
– She’s a lucky sister.
– They don’t have much money.
Gabrielle runs the card. She writes out the stock number in looping strokes.
– You’re going to have to get something for your wife too, Adam. You know you have to.
I want the bracelet in my pocket, the bag in the trash.