Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Begin the Beguine

"As he glanced downward, she caught a glimpse of the dull flecks of loneliness he'd been hiding. He had such sad eyes."

This was Cole's first line.

Cole was writing a love story. His love story? Someone elses? The beginning was a love story, anyway. But he was already past that part. Now somewhere in the middle, the story would be all longing and sadness.

He hadn't yet sorted that the ending in his head. Frankly, he admitted to himself, he hadn't sorted out much. Just some pieces in broad brushstrokes. Disjointed short scenes, with lots of gaps.

* * * 

The mysterious "she" was a woman that Cole had noticed a few months ago.  He had stopped by the fountain at Lincoln Center. It was just before 7 PM.  Lincoln Center at dusk was a favorite people-watching spot of his. Cole sat with his back pressed against the outer lip of the fountain and his arms around his knees.  He was wearing a grey zip-up sweatshirt and a pair of jeans.  Couples bubbled and buzzed all around him.

Except for this one woman he had noticed. She was standing alone on the opposite side of the fountain. She was pretty in a pixie-kind of way, with short blond hair, wearing jeans and a white tee. She had Canon SLR camera on a strap around her neck, and her eyes slowly tracked the scene before her. He noticed that her eyes were different colors, one green and one brown. Cole was looking right at her as she snapped a picture of him sitting against the fountain, checked it in the viewfinder, and then looked back up at him with an amused half-smile.

Cole reached his hands to the ground and rolled forward and popped to his feet. He hadn't thought about it, but he realized he was walking over to the pixie photographer. He would later learn her name was Ella.

The summer sun began its descent and the edges of the sky were a soft burnt orange.  The crowd retreated to the air conditioning and classical music.  She was still looking at him, directly at him.  And she was standing, watching, waiting.  Her right hip was slightly shifted to the side.

Her confidence, real or imagined, was off-putting, and as Cole approached her, he realized he had no idea what he was going to say.

* * * 
Ella liked taking pictures.  Especially taking pictures of people when they weren't looking, and was particularly gifted at capturing a look, a thought, a feeling. She saw their story in her mind, she could feel its truth. 

This man that was walking towards her now had friendly open eyes. And he was looking at her.

She couldn't tell with this one, who he was. Where he came from. But she knew he was also a watcher, like her.  A story finder. She wanted to know him.

And she smiled.

* * *
It was a chilly Sunday in September, and Ella was sipping on a hot tea. They were at a coffee shop in the West Village, sitting next to each other at a small metal table outside. On a plate between them were two thick pieces of fresh baked bread and a ramiken filled with honey. Cole watched her dip the corner of a piece of bread into the honey and push a runaway strand of honey back onto the crust with her index finger. A yellow-green leaf from a nearby tree helicoptered onto their table.

They had slipped easily and comfortably into this . . . togetherness.  It felt good.

Back at her apartment that afternoon, he rubbed her naked back. 

She liked old records. Vinyl. Him too. Her turntable spun, and the music played softly.

He drew small circles on her skin with his finger, and she closed her eyes. He was gentle. He kissed her neck. He rested his head in the curve of her back.

* * *
The snow was coming down outside, and Ella was wrapped in a knit blanket on her couch. Cozy. Her Mac lay open before her with a collage of her photos on the screen.

When she came across the picture of Cole from the summer, she blew it up to fullscreen. His eyes were so bright, so engaging. She sighed. He had changed so much from that first day. He wasn't the same man. And they weren't the same either.

When they decided they would no longer see each other, he couldn't even look at her. The empty space that was now between them shocked her. And as he glanced downward, she caught a glimpse of the dull flecks of loneliness he'd been hiding. He had such sad eyes.

She started to cry.
* * *
Cole looked down at the paper:

As he glanced downward, she caught a glimpse of the dull flecks of loneliness he'd been hiding. He had such sad eyes. She started to cry.

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