by Andrea Marcusa
Say it was April. Say you’d finally asked me to spend a day with you. And I, who’d scanned the campus quad and library for weeks for a glimpse of you or crumb of conversation, was now counting down the hours, minutes before seeing you.
Say we’d left our books and exams behind and driven from campus to the City in your old Austin-Healey, with the top down. New York City, that shining world where I always felt anything was possible, nothing like the sterile classrooms and the imposing library filled with the dust and boring words of ancient academics and modern theorists and the sweat of worried, grinding students. Say you stopped at 96th Street and splurged on two glasses and a cold bottle of champagne because I’d just told you it was my favorite. Say you turned onto 5th Avenue, and with one hand untwisted the wire, pulled off the foil and then popped the cork so that it flew out of the car onto the pavement, and we both shrieked with laughter. Say the spring breeze whipped through our hair and the tart bubbles burst on our tongues. Say we toasted each other and then lifted our glasses to pedestrians on the crosswalk at Bergdorf Goodman, and then to the traffic cop on 47th, and the pigeons all lined up on a streetlight. At 42nd Street, we saluted the noble, stone lions that flanked the stairs of the New York Public Library.
We would be the gayest couple we knew, the most shining, amid grey office buildings filled with drudges, and harried workers scurrying to and from dank doorways, while we sat in that white car in our City finest, you in a blue seersucker suit and me in a flowered dress with a corsage you pinned on me, its sharp point pricking my skin so a tiny drop of blood stained my sleeve. I didn’t dare re-pin it, afraid to risk your seeing your blunder and alter the mood of the day.
Say at 14th Street you took my hand and kissed the backs of my fingers, while we heard the steady drone of traffic and a far-off siren and trucks changing gears and cars beeping and honking, the entire city coursing through us.
Let’s forget about what happened later. Say we both felt that wonderment, saw how simply we played off the other with barely a word, and this was something we’d never found anywhere else. And on that day, under our dome of blue sky, the sun streaming down on us, we realized this. And maybe that was the one true thing about that day.
Let’s say that when our bottle was empty, you drained a silver flask of whiskey too, and you pulled me around the gear shift and partially into your lap, and kissed me while we were stalled in traffic, cars and taxis honking, and we barely heard or saw any of it because it was just you and me, shining in that white car, wrapped up in each other, your stubble burning my soft cheek, your mouth tasting of peat and whiskey, and the whole world watching.
Let’s say that when you tossed our empty champagne bottle over your shoulder, not caring where it landed, I told myself it was just something you did this one time, something you probably didn’t always do because everything else about you and us that day glimmered in such an extraordinary way. And as the bottle sailed high into the air and began to drop, I told myself this again when it just missed a taxi’s windshield, before crashing with that terrible sound onto the pavement and shattering to pieces.
Andrea Marcusa’s literary fiction and essays have appeared in The Baltimore Review, River Styx, Citron Review, New South, and others. She’s received recognition for her writing in a range of competitions, including Glimmer Train, Third Coast, The Ontario Review, Ruminate Magazine (fiction), New Letters (essay), and Citron Review (micro fiction). Since 2014, she has been nominated yearly for Pushcart Prizes. You can see Andrea Marcusa online at andreamarcusa.com and on Twitter (@my_cen_parknyc).