The good Stalker
She wore her Crayola green faux fur jacket like a cape. The rumble and grind of the subway caused her to shift it around now and then so it didn’t slip off. On anyone else but the woman in the green jacket standing a few passengers away from me on the Number One train, the fake fur might have looked like a large rug sample. Of course, in New York, the pelt was a fashion statement, but I guess I missed that issue of Vogue. What grabbed my attention was the way she carried it off. She made the jacket appear expensive, not quite Bergdorf’s but maybe Bendel. No, Bendel sold accessories, not clothes. So, Bloomingdales. Didn’t matter. She wore it with panache. It was she that gave it style, not the other way around. How does that happen? Style. Is it the way she carried herself, a kind of limp almost swooning grace even as we jounced to a stop at 34th Street? The car smelled of wet wool. Or was it that look of languor in her gaze, when her eyes dusted around the noisy train and stopped on mine? Or maybe it was her gall that did it, the way she turned her back when she saw me staring at her as we pulled into the 42nd Street station, and I nearly lost my balance.
She was late twenties. Her hair was short and well cut rising to a graceful pompadour that swooned and then dissolved behind her right ear. Big jewelry is in. I saw that one in Vogue. Bendel’s! She wore a lanyard necklace of pewter chips that fell nearly to her waist where it was anchored by a buckle-sized emerald pendant. She touched it. Blood red nails. No wedding ring. She glanced back at me. At me? When she turned back around, she leaned against the car’s hand rail, a wraith wrapped in a carpet.
Really, I don’t follow people, but I followed her off the Number One train at 79th Street. She had glanced back at me once again as she stepped off the car. Was that an invitation, I saw, or was she ensuring herself I wasn’t a stalker? I was careful to be the last passenger off the train because I didn’t want to frighten her. I kept my distance as I followed.
In the early spring twilight, she walked briskly toward Amsterdam and passed under the maroon awning of the Lucerne, a tall pink stone edifice dominating the corner of 79th where she turned left.
At that hour, heading toward 7 pm, the streets were still excited by window shoppers and residents returning from midtown and their jobs. Each day now, the sun hung on later and later, and at this hour the chugging gray fetor of car exhausts wafted away, the air freshening on the aromas of Amsterdam’s ethnic eateries. I fitted in with this crowd. I dressed well, wore my clothes well. I could have been part of the soaringly upward mobile neighborhood.
I shadowed her as she walked past Insomnia Cookies, the Great Burrito, past a dry cleaner and an Indian restaurant. I debated whether to jog up to her and introduce myself, asking her if she had a moment for a drink. There was no shortage of watering holes.
I dodged a honking cab when she turned right onto 80th, a calm, tree-lined block with an italian restaurant on one corner and the Cava Wine Bar opposite. She took the odd numbered side of the street where fire escapes took scissor steps across the apartment fronts. The even side where I walked was New York-New York, brown stone steps led up to stately turn-of-the century homes.
A woman with money. Maybe that’s the style I saw in her, cash. But her style appeared innate, a way of being not posing. It took money to live in Manhattan’s mid-eighties. A studio apartment here went for about half a million. I knew that because I checked the real estate ads that evening. Central Park was there straight ahead, a block or so away.
I brushed a bead of perspiration from my upper lip. Keeping pace with her was not easy. Like an athlete, her grace and speed worked in sympathy. On her side, orange and white plastic traffic drums lined the street where sidewalk repairs were under way. But they ended past a round shouldered mail pick up, faded olive drab, the sort I thought that had been taken off the streets after 9/11. She paused there and fumbled with her jacket. I stopped too. It was awkward, but I was just far enough back so that only a watching neighbor would have noticed my sudden traction. There was a fob of keys dangling in her hand when she started up the tan stairs to her building.
My sense of urgency took over my sense of decency, and I crossed the street as she stopped at the polished wood and glass entry doors to her apartment. She must have caught a glimpse of me reflected in the windows, and she grabbed a quick look over her shoulder. I think our eyes met. Had she smiled? Yes. I saw a hint, but I don’t know. It might have been a look of concern or fear, as if she had she recognized me as the man staring at her on the subway. I don’t know. I saw that a cab had pulled over to drop off a fare, and I called after it. When I opened the creaking passenger door to get in, I looked back to see if she was watching. What I saw was the faux green carpet swing through the entry. Maybe I could have picked her up, I told myself as we accelerated toward Columbus Avenue, but it didn’t seem right, not my style.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish