I walked ahead of the others. Rounding the corner to Third Avenue, I scoured the white landscape for taxis. The city was quiet that evening. Serene. The empty streets spoke of a movie scene, one where an actor senses its relevance but does not know what it is or if the Fates will ever grant the chance to see it.
Still warm from the recently fallen snow, the streets remained desolate and hardly touched. I was alone on the sidewalk. Most had not yet emerged from their apartments following the Nor'easter that blanketed Manhattan, remaining shrouded by the temporary but protective slumber only a raging storm outside could offer its normally restless inhabitants.
I welcomed the stillness. Its melodic vastness echoed in sharp contrast to the mindless banter of my present company, now paces behind me, cacophonic voices growing paler with each purposeful step I took. Their words melded to an undecipherable din as I walked with quickening gait into the darkness. Where I was headed to this day I do not know. But I was thankful for the respite, if only for a fleeting moment.
Dinner had been a surprise−God's wrath (or grace) never a deterrent to my husband’s family who knew no bounds or manners about intruding on young newlyweds. It was always their choice of venue, their discussions, and their agendas, my new husband included. I was not one of them, and though I did not know at the time, never would be.
Under the cover of night I walked, speeding up with each deliberate step. Suddenly, silence. They were gone, and I hidden from their sight.
Then I saw it. The taxi barreled up the avenue, its tires pressing down with a crunching sound against the unplowed snow, boorishly intruding on the night's tranquility. I threw my hand intently in the air, claiming a coveted ride back to the solace of my Upper East Side apartment, away from the alienating voices long overstayed in their welcome.
The taxi pulled over with an abrupt halt. Its brightness called out against the pale terrain, tempting me with its vitality.
It was when I walked to the door that I saw him. At precisely the same moment together we reached for its silver handle, glistening like the prized trophy of an athlete in the final moments of a fearless sprint.
I had not noticed him there before. It was as though he instantly manifested himself out of the mist rising from the fallen snow. Our eyes met and locked. Time stopped, while surely only seconds passed for the hidden dwellers still lying dormant among us.
In his mid to late twenties, he had dark hair and soft brown eyes. A defined jaw. He was masculine. Clean cut. He looked at me standing there−young, vibrant, alive−in my black coat and red woolen hat, wavy locks of my fiery hair fighting to escape from underneath its tight grasp. My gloves hid my wedding band from sight, masquerading my entanglement. No man would have believed the wide-eyed girl before him was a married woman. But I was, my destiny already sealed in its evolution.
“We can share,” he offered with a seductive smile. “Where are you going?”
My mind instantly flashed to the seven people−to my new husband−who trailed closely behind me, not more than moments from where I stood. Yet I answered, continuing to engage this stranger as the taxi’s exhaust fogged the air and my mind, mimicking the quickness of our breath and my urgency in the warm winter air. Our eyes never left each other’s. I offered him my cross streets, silent in my disbelief as the words fled my mouth.
“I’m not far from there," he agreed. "Let’s go.”
He opened the door, and with an inviting gesture of his hand, beckoned me inside.
I stood on the sidewalk, motionless. The pull of his stare rattled me. I wanted to know him. Follow him. I now understood there was something more out there for me, I just did not know what. Who. I needed to find it, find him. Somewhere. Maybe I just had.
But I could not leave. I was obligated to stay. Already spoken for.
“I’m sorry.” I hesitated. “I can’t go. You take it.”
“Are you sure?” he questioned with a puzzled expression, surprised as my once eager demeanor now visibly dissipated before him.
“I’m with other people,” I conceded. A barely perceptible hint of guilt and regret tinged my confession. A stain on my devotion.
“Another time, then.”
With that, the door closed and I watched him drive off into the night. But there would be no next time. Never would I see him again, except as a conjuring in my mind on those gray days that one by one eventually overcame my marriage.
I shuddered as the sorrow of lost possibility enveloped me.
From behind me voices slowly emerged, growing steadily louder as they drew near. With my back still turned away from my world and toward the taxi's diminishing trail, I closed my eyes and for the first time felt coldness descend on the night.