I saw her rounding the far corner but she disappeared before I could catch up. Clutching my chest I backed up against the brick wall, breathless from her beauty. I had first glimpsed her a few blocks before, but traffic blocked our path. Too many times I’d let her escape… too many times I’d let her just evaporate from my life like steam rising from the very streets she walked…too many times, but not today.
I slung my bag over my shoulder and jogged forward, weaving through pedestrians with the deftness of a snake through tall grass. The warm spring wind whipped at my face and gave back expended breath as I glided west on Eight-Fifth Street, eyes transfixed in zealous poise. And then, a mere twenty feet away, I saw her.
Car horns sounded like trumpets and a concrete carpet spread out in regal pomp as I approached cautiously so as not to frighten. Her back was to me but I could make out the subtle nape of her neck as she leaned against the wall. It was now or never.
“Excuse me miss?” I said, voice cracking from emotion.
She turned ever so slightly but kept her head down.
“I couldn’t help but notice that lovely newspaper you’re wearing,” I continued, getting ever braver with each word. “And that scent…do I detect a hint of bourbon?”
She now turned fully. The sunlight poured into each scar on her face and bounced effortlessly from the sheen of her matted gray hair. Dry cracked lips parted and revealed a smile that would have halted armies in their path. She hacked a heavenly hack and wiped a brown liquid from her ruddy cheek. Oh that I could be that brown liquid on that cheek! To perch, waiting to slide into the dark secret pleasure of her mouth.
Embarrassed by my bravado I cast my eyes down but then took notice of her frock. A blue ski coat topped a sheer gray sweatshirt emblazoned with various stains that, when paired with the additional three multi-colored sweaters, created a playful ensemble no doubt as timeless as it was seasonal. On her feet she wore vintage white sneakers, a reasonable choice of flats, which were accented by fashionable duct tape that literally tied the look together.
I fidgeted and avoided the penetrating glare of her good eye which seemed able to look deep into my soul. Had I offended her delicate sensibilities with my brazen approach? Fearful I’d lost her, I ventured more dialogue.
“Some weather we’re having isn’t it? It makes you want to just sit outside all day and take in the sunshine.”
“I sleep in a box.”
She spoke! But what to say in return? I smiled and dug the toe of my shoe into the ground as an embarrassed teen would. She made me feel so alive! I was like a schoolboy again!
“Well that’s very practical of you in this economy. Cardboard I imagine, yes?”
She turned and resumed examination of her shopping cart set beside her. Ugh, why did I have to assume cardboard?! How pretentious could I be! A woman of her status would surely have upgraded to some sort of plastic by this stage in her life. I had to make a gesture of forgiveness.
“You know I saw a pretty full can of garbage back on First Avenue. Maybe if you’re not busy later we could check it out together? I mean, assuming you have no plans already of course.”
She paused her rummaging and looked up again, giving a thoughtful spit that dangled and shimmered like crystal before splashing to the ground. Her strong hand rubbed the back of her neck and scratched an unseen itch that I yearned to discover.
Traffic seemed to slow as I awaited her response and we were caught in a dreamscape where objects moved with the sluggish loping of those not rushing for greater vistas. My eyes closed for a moment, trying to envision our lives together. A hedonistic bohemia of urban eroticism subject only to the whims of the environment.
When my eyes opened there was no one there. Panicking, my gaze darted left, then right. Where had she gone? Was this indeed a dream? Nay, a nightmare that ended in me coming so close to my perfect life only to have it ripped from my grasp. Oh cruel fate! Why have you forsaken me?!
I was brought back to Earth by the rattle of the shuttering shopping cart behind me. I turned just in time to see her limping down the street from where I’d just come. Before I could dart after her she stopped and tilted her head to the side enough that I could see her perfect profile. And then, with a subtleness normally reserved for coquettish flirts, she winked.
And as she continued her walk down the street, left foot dragging behind her, my heart soared. She had winked! My lady, my love, my life…it was happening! I turned on one heel and went whistling in the opposite direction, confident that this wasn’t the end of our interactions, but the beginning.
The sun continued to rise higher in the Manhattan skyline and my hopes ascended with it. For I had met the woman of my dreams and we were about to spend our life together. A single man had found his mate, and a homeless woman who had found her home.
Disclaimer: The above was a work of fiction. The homeless are gross and should not be approached for any reason.