Loneliness pulled me outside, to the streets. Buttoning my peacoat tight around me, I flipped the collar up to brace against the wind. Walking among the Saturday night crowds of Portand’s NW 23rd, I saw myself from above, as in a sad montage in a film. I didn’t acknowledge the faces of those walking towards me, families shopping, drunk friends laughing as they trip over cracks in the sidewalk, lovers with their arms tangled around each other. I kept my eyes on the sidewalk before me, on the shoes crossing my path, the penal grey of the sidewalk, until I reached the end of the shops, turned around and start again. I wanted to find something to hold on to.
Crossing the street, I inhaled a smell I’d forgotten, that of a high school boyfriend and the detergent his mother used to wash his clothes. I remember hiding my face in his sweatshirt as he held me. So clean, so well cared for. I thought someone that loved would know how to love me too—- but we were so young. I followed the scent across the street, trying to find home when I heard him call to me.
He sat in front of a rug store. “Do you play backgammon?” he asked. It was clear he was speaking to me. I looked up. He stood at the top of stairs to a store that sold Persian Rugs. He was smaller than me, brown and wiry. One hand was draped casually into his pants pocket and the other held an elegant parakeet green glass of hot tea.
“I used to play with my dad when I was young,” I answered. “I’m not sure I remember how.”
“Come, come,” he said pointing to the board he had set up on a bench on the porch. “I’ll pour you some apple tea.”