By J Gavin Allan
She could not remember the last time this walk was executed. That term seemed appropriate. It felt as if she was being escorted to a brick wall with tiny holes darkened from powder burns. But there was no escort. The usual guide on such occasions filled the young girl with pride and a sense of security. The boy was the toughest kid on the block. Or so it appeared. And he belonged to her. Until, she broke his heart.
Today reeked from the difference. It started as soon as flickering daylight blazed across the sky. Leaving the underground station, shafts of light greeted each pedestrian with harsh, piercing spears of a dying sun. Shooting through the rows of apartment houses as if discharged from a laser, the irritation intensified. A sudden stumble greeted entrance to the sidewalk, a sandal caught on the top step. The size 5 T-Strap threw up a colorful metallic stud. Fitting her petite foot in place, the marred shoe returned to its function. Its damage unnoticed.
Taking a few steps, “oh no.” The anguish was whispered, but still felt. “Please?”
A slight bend at the knees enabled her to check the delicate silver chain circled around her ankle. Two hearts reflected a brief flash of sunlight as they hung from the metallic strand. The minuscule engravings indiscernible to the naked eye were visible to her. An imprint on her mind. It was the least expensive piece of jewelry she owned. But the most precious.
“Hey, baby! What’s the hurry?” The brief and innocent action was interpreted as weakness. A trait best kept hidden in this area.
“You’re a pretty little girl.” The words scented with the sweet perfume of cheap whiskey enveloped her ears. Looking straight ahead to discourage any further patter from the apparent vagrant, she could not help but notice other young women. Peering out the corner of an eye, she wondered. “Why aren’t they accosted? They’re so much prettier than me.” Quickening her steps, “Do I look so different and out of place?” She was different. The young ladies returning from a day’s toil in Manhattan were dark and curvy. One pretty girl in a black mini skirt with matching paten leather heels, focused on by every man that passed, spoke to another smartly dressed young woman with a Spanish accent.
“Puerto Rican girls are so pretty. I think it’s their skin.” The thought delayed the fear spreading up her spine over the belching enthusiast on her trail. The other young lady walking beside the smartly dressed young woman must have been Italian. Her accent was reminiscent of Cookie. The only friend she ever made in Brooklyn. Maybe the only friend she ever had? To her, it was impossible to tell the difference between his people and the Hispanics. Italians could pass for Puerto Ricans and visa versa. But what did she know? She was a spoiled little rich girl from Central Park West. To her, this area could have been in another dimension.
Passing the newsstand the young woman closed the delicate lids that covered those intoxicating green eyes. She remembered when he first uttered that description. Maybe it would be better to forget?
“Paris Peace Talks continue.” Shuddering at the mention of the war. That stupid war! Why was it necessary to scream it out? Vietnam! Everyone knows about it.
A balding overweight man resembling something marinated in sweat stuck out an arm covered with psoriasis. A passerby flipped a coin and took the newspaper as one would a baton in a relay race.
Kissing sounds developed a rhythm with each of her steps. The soiled admirer behind cared nothing of world events. This delicate beauty visiting the neighborhood was all the news that was worthy of attention. Fear increased with the thought of the absent protector. This would not happen if he were with her.
“He’s not my boyfriend, anymore.” The thought ricocheted through her mind.
“Little lady! Don’t be scared. You have some change?” An indistinguishable slurred phrase was uttered. It signaled the speaker’s sudden lack of interest. The shadow behind her vanished.