He stepped off the curb into the street, turned around and stared at me. A bunch of us were waiting for the light at Broadway and 44th. Tall, wild-haired, enormous brown eyes, wide mouth slightly open — I immediately looked away.
“You are beautiful,” he said.
I pretended not to notice him, or to hear his astonishment.
“You’re really beautiful. You’re amazing.”
I looked over his head at the crush of people waiting on the other side.
“I mean it,” he said, looking directly at me and holding out his hands. “You are truly beautiful.” His voice enveloped me like warm vapor.
Heads turned in my direction, straining to see what he was seeing. I wanted to move, but the orange hand of the traffic signal nailed us all to the spot. He kept talking, his words gathering speed, his voice rising in intensity.
“Please,” he said, “look at me. I must tell you. You are a dream, where have you been, you are so very beautiful.”
I flushed. I looked down, then away. A neon white “walk” had replaced the orange hand, and the crowd surged forward. I glanced at him as I stepped into the street. His face was earnest, his eyes searching. He moved backwards, arms lifted, still facing me. His coat billowed around him like wings.
“My God, I swear. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
I hesitated, then veered around him to the right. His hands flew up, fluttering in front of me like prayer flags.
“Wait, wait. Don’t go. Please.”
The bunch on the corner was dispersing, some looking back, a few smiling. Now he was at my side.
“Wait, I don’t want to lose you, please.” His words loomed out like a lariat, tugging on me.
“You’re a goddess, you’re my life. I mustn’t lose you!”
Turning sharply, I broke away. A bus was coming down Broadway, and I ran for it. Never mind lunch with Norma. She’d understand. Waving my arm above my head, heart pounding, panting to myself—please, bus, don’t pass me by.
Miraculously, it slowed. The doors hissed open and I lunged aboard without looking back.
The doors snaked shut behind me. He hadn’t followed.
Relief spread through my body and I collapsed into a window seat. Good God, what ever was that? I looked out the window. I had never thought myself beautiful. Maybe nice-looking, okay, but not beautiful. Now suddenly I was beautiful—to someone. Someone who saw something in me no one else had ever seen.
Someone I would never see again.
The bus lurched across the intersection. I felt a huge hole inside. I glanced back down 44th. There he was, standing in the middle of the street, arms aloft, coat flapping and mouth moving, but not in the direction of my departing bus. He was facing the curb, his eyes and his words pinned on a pudgy middle-aged woman who was standing there, waiting for the light to change.
Sandy Robertson’s interests in teaching literature led her to writing fiction a few years ago. She has published two short stories and is currently at work on a novel. She lives in San Diego, California.