It’s been years now and I can’t stop thinking about someone I’ve never officially met. Have you ever seen a stranger that you still think about from time to time? I mean, you may have only spoken two words to this person but there you are, sitting in the middle of Atlanta traffic on I-285, wondering what their favorite color is or what they may have eaten for breakfast.
A few years ago I picked up my best friend, Savannah, from Georgia State. She had one class left, so I waited for her at Starbucks. I sat on a stool in front of a large window, sipping on my chai latte. The violent wind outside whistled catcalls to anyone who dared step outside. Across the street a group of women pulled their coats tighter as they stood on the corner waiting for the bus as it approached.
That’s when I saw him. He’d just walked out of the sushi place when the wind snatched something from his grasp. Without looking for oncoming traffic, he took off across the road until he paused in front of my window seat. He was close enough for me to hear his shoes clap the concrete as the wind taunted him.
I couldn’t stop giggling as I watched this grown man in his impressive suit, twirling and hopping about like an inebriated ballerina with the wind’s song serving as the accompaniment to his sidewalk performance.
He paused for an intermission as he dashed back to the curb, stopping a moment to look across the street.
What’s he looking at?
The wind must have grown tired of playing cat and mouse, or perhaps jealous that something else had stolen its dance partner’s attention. It lifted the glove into the air, then dropped it in front of where I sat. A child’s glove. He jogged toward the window–toward me–and pressed his hand against the glass as he crouched down to claim his prize.
My chai had grown cold but it didn’t matter; the spiced drink had lost its savor. Entranced, I looked him over. He had to be in his early forties. Low haircut and a neat goatee spotted with specks of gray. He was the complexion of my favorite camel-colored boots. Like mine, his eyes were the deepest shade of brown.
I slid my palms underneath my thighs, resisting the urge to press my hand on the glass, opposite his.
He stood and the corners of his eyes crinkled as he gave me a modest smile. I returned the grin. He nodded, slid the pink ball of fuzz into his pocket, and trotted across the street.
He knelt in front of a little girl bundled in a pink and green coat. I hadn’t noticed her before. She jumped with glee as he whipped the glove out of his pocket. She flung her arms around his neck and covered his cheeks in kisses. He slipped the glove on her fingers and rubbed her little hands between his, then tapped her nose with his fingertip. I watched her smile and a flood of tears rolled from my eyes. I touched my wet cheek, then the tip of my nose, mirroring the affectionate gesture between them.
I dabbed the morose tears away, careful not to smear my mascara or peel my false eyelashes. Outside the wind whistled its tune again, and the man and child walked hand-in-hand.
I leaned forward to get a better look at her as they stood at the crosswalk. I knew I didn’t have much time, so I bolted out of the coffee shop, gasping for air as the wind snatched it from my lungs. I pulled my collar up and held my head down, making my way toward them. The gusts pummeled my back as if Mother Nature wanted a hand in orchestrating this encounter. I felt my feet rushing forward.
“Amaya,” someone called to me.
Up ahead Savannah stood outside out of her classroom building. She waved at me, but I averted my eyes.
I need to get to them.
Savannah’s face contorted as I breezed past her. “Girl, where are you going?”
I walked up beside the little girl. “Hi,” I said.
She looked up at me. “Hello.”
She had his eyes.
He looked at me and gave a slight nod, not a hint of recognition on his face. Didn’t he remember seeing me?
“Your coat is really pretty,” I said to her. “Your gloves match it perfectly.”
She beamed. “My daddy got them for me. The wind took one away but he rescued it for me. Right, daddy?”
The light changed and he tugged on her hand, leading her across the street. I walked off the sidewalk to follow them but I heard Savannah calling me. I stepped back onto the curb, watching them walk away. The little girl turned around and smiled as her feet pattered behind her father.
Her smile caused my heart to pound and my breaths were short. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. Then I felt like I was standing in a dark tunnel, and all I could see was that smile on her lips. Taunting me.
“Amaya,” Savannah said, her voice sounding far away.
I gasped, my eyes fixed on those two curly ponytails and that pink coat. My vision blurred and I let the tears stream tiny rivers down each cheek.
Now I would never know her secret. How she’d gotten a grown man to chase a glove for her. How he dang near made a fool of himself in public to save one insignificant glove. For her.
“Amaya.” Savannah caught up to me, putting both hands on her hips, huffing for breath. “Whew. You were really sprinting. Are you okay? What’s the matter?”
I pointed to the pink coat in the sea of people bustling down the street. “I want to know how she got her father to stay.”