“Walking is not enough; you have to put some thinking into it,” she takes out her sunglasses and contemplates putting them on. “Last week, while I was in London,” rolling the closed sunglasses between her fingers, “I saw Barb.” Waits for a response. None. “She was in the city for an appointment…publisher.” Waits. “This is not a very intriguing story for you, is it? Didn’t think it would be.”
Sunglasses now on, she takes her bag and opens the door, “Do you know what I thought when I saw Barb?” Halfway out of the cab, “I thought of how the two of you must have laughed thinking I was ignorant of your trysts.” She does not slam the door; just eases it closed, pauses, then walks towards the corner.
They had gone to the cafe on Park; a quick lunch, then went for what should have been a pleasant window look-see stroll down Park. He had been preoccupied during lunch and she thought a walk would open him up. She knew what was on his mind; just wanted to get him to ‘confess’ without an argument, a scene, a thrashing of swords.
At 64th and Park the light is against them and the red pedestrian signal abruptly stops them, ‘DON’T WALK’. They wait. She looks at the restaurant on the corner; it’s where they had celebrated their first year as a couple. “Come on light,” she says impatiently to the air around her. Then, as if the air is speaking to her, an aroma of fresh baked bread wafts from an opening door. Her mind flashes back to that night, it was so wonderful; the meal, the wine, the loving words he whispered, hands touching…the sunrise sex. Maybe they still had a chance? But before she has time to become totally absorbed in pleasant memories he nudges her arm; they have the ‘WALK’ sign. Somewhere in the middle of the street she thinks about this being an omen; not his nudge, but the changing pedestrian signal that dislodged her from getting lost in the catacombs of memory lane.
As they make their way down the street, her thoughts become more confused. Love is never easy, her mother once told her. ‘Wait, I was sixteen, mom was sitting on the edge of my bed consoling me as I cried my heart out; having been stood-up for a party by Brad, what’s his name.’ She may have forgotten Brad’s last name, but not the taste of being so overwhelmingly dejected. By twenty-five she had learned that love was an adventure and those sixteen year-old tears were, in retrospect, a strengthening exercise. ‘Damn,’ she thinks, ‘I’ve participated in enough strengthening exercises. This is the real adventure of the heart I’ve trained for.’
Reaching the corner she looks up, the signal at 63rd, immediately upon their arrival, flashes that non-verbal ‘STOP, or put your life in peril’ warning. “This is more of a ‘hop’ then a stroll,” she jokes. To her left is the florist. The bucket of red roses outside fails to beckon her. ‘How many flowers has he sent me from here? The ones in London, the ones that arrived soon after the taxi had brought me back from the airport.’ A short note with each bouquet to remind her of his undying love.
On sheer impulse she had called the florist. Posing as his make-believe secretary, she asked about the ‘deliveries’ to London. “Both deliveries were made.” “Thank you,” wondering whether Barb’s flowers were as nice as the ones he sent her. Better? She tossed the notes in the trash.
Now, standing on a street corner waiting for the red signal to turn white, she knows there must have been other notes, other flowers that were, unbeknownst to her, just as meaningless as the last two. She says nothing to him; just waits for the ‘WALK’ signal, thinking about how the coffee grounds slid across the discarded notes laying in the trash.
62nd Street, the red signal again, but no shops to signify with. They stand silently waiting. A young woman, maybe 23, approaches from their right. The woman is wearing a scarf similar to the one she gave Barb last Christmas. Momentarily she thinks about pulling Barb’s scarf tight, real tight about her neck. Smirk. She laughs to herself and looks over at her companion to see if he noticed her smirk; no, but ‘he just failed at sneaking a look at the young thing!’ Thankfully, before she can say some witty remark to him, the ‘WALK’ sign flashes; it is like a flash of consciousness. Steeping off the curb, she glances at him again, ever so slightly, knowing that she is now crossing more than a street.
61st approaches and she needs the ‘WALK’ signal. She needs it to reinforce the determination, the strength, courage, the resolve. She is rewarded; but she stops. Her words are, “Let’s grab a cab; call it a day.”
By the time the cab pulls up across the street from her apartment building, she knows what she has to do and say.
He listened, watching her roll the sunglasses in her hand; hearing the words, but not believing she would actually leave him. It was the fact she failed to slam the door, failed to make a scene that smacked him in the face with reality. His dumbfounded, take her for granted attitude, was not lost on her. She waves goodbye to him through the passenger-side window; her right hand, bent at the elbow, raised chest high, fingers opening and closing in a slow, ‘four letter’ epitaph for her sixteen year old tears.
As the cab pulls away she looks up and sees the sign change instantly to ‘WALK.’ She does not hesitate to cross. “Maybe he should pay more attention to the WALK -DON’T WALK signs,” out loud to anyone who cares to hear.
Now she is walking as herself; knowing it would take time before meeting the right man to walk with.
‘WALK’-DON’T WALK’ is a work of fiction, copyright Steven S. Walsky, 2009, all rights reserved