Image Source: NYPL Digital Gallery
She was meant to be a shadow. Nothing more than looming black across my light. That’s all she was and all she’ll ever be.
I first saw her in winter. Back table against the wall. She was pure, raven-haired seduction. Alone, reading an early afternoon edition of the Herald Tribune. I came in without my hat, and the snow in my hair melted and ran down my neck, onto my collar and down the small of my back, and there she was. Instant sensory association. I wanted to marry her on the spot, but I couldn’t even say hello to her.
The winter went on and on, and I always hoped for snow, so I could feel the drips down my back and thus feel her. She almost always got the same table, and I almost always got the same table, one in the middle where I could sneak glances at her all lunch. I always came alone, hoping she’d see me and catch on and say yes. Hoping she’d come over and make me the happiest lug in the cafeteria and the world. But she never did.
Summer came, and sometimes I would take an ice cube and hold it on my neck, so I could feel the drips down my back and thus feel her. We both kept the same tables and the same routines. And she still never noticed me.
And she never would. Her star could never hang so low. So every day she’d eat alone and bus her tray alone and go back to her office alone. And every day I’d eat alone and watch her alone and go back to my life alone. Just another lonesome guy, madly in love with a shadow.
And then she was gone. Just…gone, off to another job or another city or another life with her man. Like she never existed, and never sent her shadow across my path. Like she never took my heart and made it gasp. Like…nothing there.
Like the shadow she was…