The 51st Street Man

I decided that this week, I’d post up a part of a story that I’m working on that’ll hopefully one day go somewhere if I actually try, and the scene was something that I suddenly pictured in my head for my story while we were talking in class about blogs. I’m not sure how, but it came to me, and once it did, I just had to get it down.

The noise of the familiar hustle and bustle of New York was the first thing to assault my ears as I stepped out onto the fire escape.

Car horns, tires screeches, music and shouts of delight; all of which combined and produced the hum of New York, the life, the sound of the city. It was familiar but made a person feel foreign, for it was a sound that had gone on for generations, and we were but small notes lost in the overall symphony of the city.

The cool air breathed against my face, and I had half a mind to go in and get a scarf, but the lull of the outside kept me rooted. Perhaps a simple excuse for the fact that I was just too lazy, and if I went in, I doubt I would come back out.

Tonight felt different.

There was the scent of smoke and gas, a burning sort of sensation to unprepared senses. The haze of the city rose up in a thick fog, obscuring the stars in the sky and all natural light, because the city itself was light.

But the haze and fog did its job, and thoroughly polluted the sky into a grayish black. It clouded the city like one’s mind, changing clear cut thoughts into muddled doubts. It could do that to you.

The pace and track the whole thing seemed to run on was like a current, and you would be swept up without a care right into the middle if you didn’t know who you were and where you stood. But that was the goal of some people, to simply be part of the current, to forever move in an endless cycle, bound and unbound to the way of life in this city.

I wasn’t sure where I was yet.

I tucked a strand of unruly brown hair behind my ear and searched the streets and corners for the familiar figure. From my place, you could see down 51st street, starting at the corner where the sign stood, arched above the ground, and down a little further away, where a line of shops and apartments stood.

With a little more searching and—there! There he was, at the place where he always stood, every night and every day that I’ve counted so far.

Lincoln was once again staring up at the sky, as he always did. Today he wore what I assumed was casual for a man like him, with a simple gray suit, the coat slung over his shoulder to reveal a white dress shirt and black suspenders.

His smoothed back hair was messily made atop his head, blonde hidden by the confines of his fedora. His baby blues were seemingly lost in thought as he continued to look up into the sky.

No matter how many times I asked, it seemed he would never give me a real answer as to why he stared up at the sky. Lincoln was just a strange man, and only but a man in this vast world. One person amongst many, just as I was, just as we all were.

I feel as if I’m being oddly pessimistic tonight. I mused, resting my head against my hand as I watched him a moment longer, the 51st street man.

Getting to know him these past few weeks had been, without a doubt. He was a great man, and a good…friend. But whenever we met, I was beginning to realize that he was learning more about me, and me less of him.

I realized I hadn’t talked to him since we met the other night for dinner, and I leaned against the railing, feeling the cold bite through my clothes and barely grace my skin. “Lincoln!”

He blinked, as if awoken from a nap. Rubbing his chin, he turned, not a movement wasted, and flashed me a crooked smile, eyes glimmering in the city’s light. “Good evening, Lauren. How are you?”

“Fine,” I crossed my arms, shivering at the cold touch of the rusted railing and offering him a smile. “You?”

“Wonderful.” 51st street man smiled, that gentlemanly smile of his, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was solely natural, or if it took years to perfect in a society like his. “How was your day?”

“Great.” I guess there wasn’t a reason why it wouldn’t be. Nothing really happened, but that didn’t make it a bad day. “And you?”

Lincoln turned his gaze skywards. He was standing a little ways below the fire escape, and his gaze seemed to travel past me and somewhere further beyond. “It was adequate, I suppose.”

I hummed, letting the drone of the city fill my ears for a moment. It seemed the man above me wasn’t playing his saxophone today, which was a shame, since I was in the mood to hear it. “Anything interesting happen?”

Lincoln’s crooked smile twitched upwards, and he craned his neck to look at me, eyes sparkling in that dazzling way of his. “From a New Yorker’s or non-New Yorker’s perspective?”

I felt a grin flare to life. “Surprise me.”

“A man got fired today, and he was rather… displeased with the fact, and decided to shove a desk out of the window—of a skyscraper might I add,” The handsome man slipped his free hand into his pocket, the other still holding his coat. “A great flock of people caused some traffic downtown due to some actor—I forgot the name, I’m afraid. And there was an attempted robbery at a bank somewhere east.”

Lincoln beamed. “Then I get to see you this lovely evening, which I suppose turns this uninteresting day into quite the interesting one.”

Charmer. I rolled my eyes, and his smile lightened. He had this air to him, I suppose—this way of making you feel comfortable. He could make you feel liked and wanted and important, all with one simple smile and a, ‘How do you do?’

It was a wonderful, terrible power it seemed.

Lincoln’s brows furrowed, and he tilted his head to the side, looked up at me curiously. “Lauren, my dear, you’re going to become ill if you don’t cover up.”

The cold was suddenly more prominent as I shrugged, flashing him a grin. “It’s not that bad, I’m a tough girl.”

Lincoln still looked displeased, and it seemed the man had half a mind to march up and tell me to go back inside as well. Honestly, women weren’t that helpless you know.

He blinked as if realizing something and pulled his jacket over his shoulder, tossing it upwards before I had time to think. “Catch.”

My hands automatically shot outwards, barely managing to grasp the cuff of the collar as I pulled it to me, looking down at him in disbelief. “If I didn’t catch that, it’d be in the trash right now.”

Lincoln shrugged, that charming smile of his lighting up his face. “I’ve got plenty more like it.

Stupid, rich people. Slightly envious, I clutched the jacket, staring at the gray coat, tailored to fit and faintly smelling of some cologne I didn’t recognize—but it did smell nice. My 51st street man looked up at me in faint amusement. “Well, do put it on, sweetheart. I didn’t mean for you to go and hang it up somewhere.”

I blinked back into reality and gave him a playfully annoyed look, slipping on the oversized coat. Without a doubt, it warmed me to the bone and provided great shelter from the wind. But seeing his grinning face, I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of knowing it made any difference.

“It smells weird.”

Lincoln blinked, raising an arm to himself and taking a whiff. The man suddenly looked troubled. “Odd, the brand I’ve been using normally smells quite nice—are you not a fan?”

“Perfume’s over rated.” I replied simply, clutching the coat closer to me as I leaned down to look at him. “You put too much.”

Lincoln frowned, his brows creasing as he slid his hand into his pockets. “I see.”

Amused, and slightly exasperated that something as simple as this bugged the poor guy, I rolled my eyes at him. “It’s warmer… Thanks.”

He paused, glancing back up at me, and a small smile turned the corner of his lips upwards. It was always the left, and then the right, leaving his grin slightly crooked, but somehow elegant. Perhaps there was something about being rich that always made you appear perfect in this fairy tale of a world.

“A penny for you’re thoughts?” I blinked; glancing back down to him as he looked up at me curiously with blue eyes that always appeared so…blue.

“I was thinking about how rich people always seem to look perfect.”

Lincoln wrinkled his nose almost childishly. “I’d have to disagree, sweetheart. The upper class can be… as you from the west may say—awful.

I stared at him in confusion. “Everyone says that.”

“I know,” A crooked grin and shining eyes. “I just wanted to make fun of the fact that you’re not from here.”

I pouted, a childish action for my age, but a rightfully justified one. Lincoln’s eyes shone against the smog and darkness as he let out a chuckle, fixing the tip of his fedora as he turned his gaze to the sky.

It almost felt like he belonged up there in a sense. His eyes were so blue; they could’ve been stolen from the sky itself. But the way he would tilt his head up and simply look, as if he could bring the sky to him with a simple stare, was what made it notable. It seemed as if the man was always gazing up into the heavens, or somewhere far beyond my, or perhaps anyone’s thoughts.

But tonight, his stare, while seemingly focused on me, seemed to be looking farther into something. His head titled to the side, and his eyes eyed the fire escape, as if he were calculating something.

“Lincoln?”

He made no motion that he had heard, and continued to stare, that thoughtfulness creeping up into his face. The man could stay like that so long; I would have believed he was a statue.

“I reckon,” I turned to him in surprise, his voice startling me out of my daze as he seemed to somewhat awaken from his as he looked up at me, taking a step closer so he was practically beneath the escape, “that if I were to stretch, I could reach you from here.”

Odd, and incredibly random, I arched a brow at the statement. “Maybe, if I stretched down to.” True enough, the fire escape was only several feet from the ground, and from here, it seemed rather possible.

Lincoln looked up at me, but there was something else in those blue eyes as he stretched his hand upwards. “Humor me, would you?”

Curiously confused, but finding no harm in doing so, I bent downwards, knees touching the floor as I stretched my arm through the bars of the railing towards his, reaching for his hand.

I watched the distance between are hands close, but as they grew closer and closer, the availability became less and less, and was beginning to quickly deteriorate. My shoulder began to groan in protest at being stretched so abruptly, and the bars of the railing were digging into me as I leaned against it, trying to near flatten myself to the ground to try and reach him.

When I looked to meet his gaze, I paused, feeling my breathing hitch for a moment.

Lincoln’s gaze was intense, for lack of better word. Those blue eyes that were so friendly, so well hidden, weren’t covered up by any curtains tonight, and no amount of fog or haze could ever cloud the sky in his mind.

His hand stretched upwards, further and further up as he stretched for mine. But something felt different, and while he was reaching for my hand, it felt as if it went much, much further beyond all that. It felt as if the man were reaching for the sky, for the stars and heavens above, to somehow grasp that intangible thing that watched us from above.

Our fingertips were practically a hair’s breathe away, and I was so drawn in, that I found myself struggling to close the little gap as much as he was, some part of me disturbed that even though the space was so small—we couldn’t reach. That even though we were so close—we weren’t close enough.

And somehow, this all felt far beyond me.

Lincoln’s eyes searched upwards, a hopeful, wistful, wanting look on his face. And I think the man didn’t realize how much of himself he was showing in this simple action. So many attempts at trying to figure out just who he was—and in a few minutes, it felt like I knew more about him than anyone could know in several years.

The man was practically on the tips of his toes, and his brows furrowed. But his eyes—his eyes almost startled me. The blue eyes I had grown accustomed to looking into were filled with such a hopeful wanting—I felt an ache in my heart, a pain in my chest I couldn’t describe as our fingers reached to just touch—if only a bit.

We were so close, I realized in that moment. So close to touching, to grasping whatever it was that we were searching for, whatever it was we were yearning for.

But that was all we’d ever be.

Just barely reaching.

I suppose something had shone on my face in that moment, for a soft smile touched his lips, and an emotion that I didn’t recognize came into his eyes. And I wouldn’t understand what it was that night until a time much further away, and it would be a terrible, terrible time.

“Almost,” He murmured, settling back down and sliding his hand into his pocket, but only one. The hand he had stretched out lay limp at his side, fingers curling into a barely noticeable fist.

“Almost,” I repeated, staring down at him, unable to tear my eyes away from his face. And for a moment, my heart was filled with an awful feeling, a pain I couldn’t describe nearly crushing me to pieces and leaving me hollow as I gripped the bars of the railing, looking down at him. “Almost.”

His eyes were soft, but there was a hidden sadness to them. My heart was aching, and I didn’t know why was my hand continued to grip the bars, and we stood there, simply staring. One gazing up, one gazing down.

After that night, I didn’t think of him as the 51st street man anymore.

To me, he’d be the man who reached for the heavens.

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One comment on “The 51st Street Man

  1. Cat in the Hat says:

    Reblogged this on JUMP START THE MOON and commented:
    This is a great short blog post that I found a while ago. It is a well written short story that I wish was longer. The author did a great job with her descriptions and characterization, really placing you in the moment. You feel like you know these characters, despite having just met them. But I think that the part that hit me most was the symbolism. The connections between holding hands and reaching for your hopes and dreams stayed with me long after I read the post.

    Liked by 1 person

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