a. you found her
b. on your doorstep
c. & it was a wednesday morning,
d. too early to be sure
e. but you blinked slowly enough
f. so that she was beautiful
g. before you could do anything to prevent it;
h. before you could forget
i. the shuttered view
j. of her mouth
k. bruised and profiled
m. a sharp frozen sky.
n. fall of eyelashes
o. pinching the edge of your vision
p. & they were
r. built for grace
t. along the pocket of your breath
u. as it rose
v. into the concrete noise
w. of a million
z. as one.
The first section of the story is here.
The second is
Today: You learned what the word prodigy when you were five and pounded it out to the rhythm of drum beats on the kitchen floor.
You are not a musician.
Every other month or so, you take all the canvases, the pieces of heavy vanilla paper, 24 by 36 photographs, and faces scratched on notebook paper to the heavily renovated building two blocks from your cramped apartment. You hesitate to call it a studio, even with all the charcoal on the walls, because you live there, too, and art is not what you do to get by.
Sometimes you only have a painting or two and a few sketches; sometimes you have an entire portfolio's worth of time. The guy that runs it berates you for that, but you shrug and smooth down the back of your head a little, because it is not a matter of laziness, it's a matter of being breathless, so much so that it is impossible to put it down on paper without ruining these tiny charming niches and your own stuttered breath.
Sometimes only one or two people show up, sometimes dozens, the numbers are variables that do not change in relation to quality, you secretly believe.
On other days, you eat sandwiches at the crossroads of streets that never seem to end and watch the people pass. You drink coffee and dream and think about the bills in your skinny, old mailbox. You attend classes, mostly. You draw, but that isn't what you do, you wish that 'watching people' was on the list of official vocations. On Wednesdays, today, you have two hour lunch breaks and you spend the time sitting at a table outside the small cafe you frequent for it's french fries, truly French in style, freedom be damned. Jamie's sister works shifts there once in a while, and sometimes the two of you talk but mostly you eat your deep fried potatoes with kosher salt and vinegar.
Today, you pull out a half-full pack of cigarettes and light one, breathing slowly, holding it between your thumb and index finger. You bet they'll leave grease marks on the thin, washed out paper but it's alright. Last week, you saw a man, almost boyishly young, with thick dark curls and a casually affected slouch. Something about the way his jeans had sat low on his hips and the way he had smiled to himself, impossibly bright, had made you want to kiss him, gentle and laughing. Had made you want to touch the edge of his shoulder blades, the inside of his arm, to feel the bumping of his pulse at the point where his jaw and neck met against the contours of your teeth. You liked him because the frayed edges of his jeans were dragged across the pavement by flip flops, and nobody wears flip flops in New York, so you tried to imagine him as just returning from Coney Island, sitting in the subway and still being able to feel the sun.
You wanted to find out if he was as warm as he looked.
A week later, and you still keep him in your mind, you keep all the people that stand out filed away in a little drawer. It's a skill, but there are no tricks to be learned, no clandestine tips to be traded. People either watch well or they don't and that's the end of the matter. Patience helps but if the person has a mindset for detail, for people, patience shouldn't be needed. For you, it's always the small things.
The people that you think of again and again aren't always gorgeous or model thin and immaculately dressed. It's all in the line of an ankle, the tilt of a head, the way someone's hair moved in their own generated breeze. A quirk of mouth or the wrinkles of a shirt against a hip. In that moment, in that place and time, something had made them beautiful and it didn't matter if they were really irritable and dour faced in real life, because that would be the only moment you kept, the only thing you remembered, and you would never know.
Two weeks ago, it had been a suited woman emerging from Starbuck's in impossibly high heels and icy cheekbones. You had thought that maybe she was a businesswoman that owned half the buildings in Brooklyn or maybe somebody that took care of appointments and private matters for celebrities. She was supremely confident, you thought, assured and comfortable, the kind of woman that always had her shoulders pulled back. Next week, it could be a mother juggling a daughter and bag of groceries or a couple sharing ice cream outside Urban Outfitters.
Now though, he can only see the back of the girl he's watching. She's young, in college, maybe. The back of her sweatshirt says 'FOREVER SMITTEN' and she's wearing a white, pleated miniskirt with knee socks and ballet flats. There's something purposefully casual about the way she stands, hand presumably tucked in pockets and knee bent, the way people do when they're waiting for something, somebody. You like the slant of her shoulders and her short, choppy hair and you imagine that she is one of those girls who burn CDs all the time and can dance for hours without stopping. She'd make a good photograph, still against the blur of cars and smoke and people, elbows perched and foot turned out, but you don't consider taking a picture then because you know that it would never be as perfect as it is now. You wonder if she has a boyfriend, a girlfriend, even, because you want to hold her hand and lean against her shoulder, you want to touch her dice earrings and talk to her.
When you go home that night, thinking of her, lungs seizing, you find a bright green envelope facedown in front of your door, dead center.