< The Gift
The Asian man with the terriers wears open leather sandals. He looks up as I approach on the Atlanta sidewalk, his face unveiled, eager, without smiling. His gaze follows as I pass. But I don't do men.
Okay, maybe once or twice, but not as a habit.
Strolling an empty stretch of sidewalk up Argonne Avenue, a woman in spike heels, young and blonde, approaches. She glances at the scuff marks on my boots, the crow's feet at my eyes, and looks away.
I turn down Fourth Street towards Myrtle. A brunette, fortyish, like myself, approaches at ten o'clock in tennis shoes. Her hair is lustrous, but scars, the remnants of childhood acne, mar her cheeks. So maybe I have a chance.
She turns to look, an act that seems to require more effort than it should. Her eyes are wide, her nostrils flared. The presence of so much naked fear — of rejection and loneliness, exposure and intimacy, perversion and crime - overwhelms me and squeezes the air from my chest.
Back inside my tiny apartment, I slouch on the sofa. I remove my hiking boots, sling them against the door, and snatch the remote from the seat beside me, punching buttons and staring at the window behind the television screen as stock car races and cooking shows strobe past.
The phone rings. But I don't get up to answer.
published 26 February 2011