There are restaurants where we can often be found eating at separate tables. We nod our greeting; a distant unity between the solitary in this city, this city always busy with love. New York; city of the Gods and the badly-shod, where my sorry ancestors came in search of life, of food.
One winter’s night, I sit poring over some work. There are more rings of coffee, now wine, imprinting the paper than words.
He wears an electric-blue scarf of cashmere and silk. Approaching, a little awkwardly, he asks me to share some time with him. It is the first time his vocal chords have played for me alone, though I have heard him speak to others, over remote tablecloths and empty coffee cups.
Yes. Please, my nameless friend, I need your company on this brittle night. Let me sit close to you, let me absorb your voice, grown-deep. Let me watch the way your grey hair falls, covering one eye, choir-boy shy.
We talk of the musical voices of our Celtic ancestors. I ask about his fine scarf and he tells me, with some embarrassment, the name of the department store where he gifted it to himself, where he fell in love with the colour and the softness of the fabric.
Then, as if to make amends, he shows me his part-threadbare winter overcoat. He says his then 83-year-old mother saw a scarecrow wearing it, but thought the Italian wool too fine for the creature, so crept out one night and took the coat. A gift for her son.
“So…your 83-year-old mother stole your coat from a scarecrow?”
“Well…yes. I suppose that’s it”, he smiles into his glass.
He takes the scarf from his neck and gently envelopes mine within, electric-blue flashing between us. I try to bury my deep-held delight in this first touch, this first shared warmth.
He leans forward, shyness lost, buoyant on wine. “Come home with me.” The words rumble through me, as if the El is rattling by above my head. We are so close that we may examine intimately the lines upon one another’s faces. “Yes. Take me home.”
The snow falls heavily; the kind that makes you feel like you’re flying when you look up. We walk; two, no longer lost in a city of millions, a city that can sometimes leave you threadbare. But not today, New York. No; not today.
Rosie Escott’s short stories have been short-and-long-listed for several competitions, including the Bath Flash Fiction Award, Retreat West Flash Fiction, and the Cambridge Flash Fiction Prize. Her work is published in several anthologies and she is currently working on her first short story collection. She lives in Kent.
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