“Got any spare change, man?” Too cold to even stick a hand out of a greasy parka sleeve, hunched against the wind. Snowing today, thick, piling down and Don is on his way to meet her, her simple ‘yes’ on the phone an hour ago in his mind like red manicured nails against a pale silk blouse, a perfect ripe raspberry on a dab of whipped creme. On his way and this aparation out of the alley, “I’m trying to get a hotel room for the night.”
Don doesn’t even bother to feel his pockets, he has just stopped at the ATM, knows he’s only got a twenty in his pocket, carefully extracted against a monthly budget that’s pretty well blown. He would, he might, he could, this guy looking like all the others, beard gone teeth gone, shivering, or maybe staggering, this guy looking just like he did back then could really use a hotel, something, the wind is brutal.
It is Valentine’s day and Don is not sure at all if Sandy was thinking of this when they were
talking on the phone earlier. She’s pretty elusive, Don thinks, and looks at this guy and shrugs. For a brief moment he was going to do it, throw a twenty at this guy, make his day, or maybe, more like it, keep him from freezing in a snowbank tonight. Thinks of how Sandy might look at him hearing the story, then thinks that only a schmuck would brag about something like this, then thinks of her paying again for their coffee.
Stops at the store for chocolate, little hearts wrapped in red foil. A nothing, a little something maybe, a spot of color in a whiteout day. Not the only guy there, not on a day like today, and the men all mill around, unconcerned and ultra casual, trying somehow to pretend it’s a natural thing to be in a chocolate store on this day, like they come here every day, that they are not somehow sucking up, or making up, or covering up for something somehow by being here.
It is getting dark when they come out of the coffee shop. Red foil chocolates spilled on the counter as they talked, a gift neither knows what to make of, hours of conversation gone by in a dream. She is saying good-by. Don’s heart races a bit, maybe from the coffee, maybe from anticipation. The snow is thick now, heavy flakes on her hair a shroud, her pale eyes blending now into the swirling white.
So this is it, then, he thinks, and starts to turn away, hunched against the wind, the movement reminding him of that greasy parka turning away.
This is it, he thinks and Sandy is walking away and stops for an instant and reaches back with a shyness, then her hand is trailing off in his. “Soon” she says, maybe, or maybe it was just the tires kicking up slush as a car pulls across the street between them.
On his way back to his car, Don looks down the alley. He’s got change now, change scooped up from the counter beside the two saucers, ringed coffee, croissant crumbs. Easy conversation, plenty of it, now there is enough to share.
Greasy parka’s not there. Must be, Don thinks, must be he got enough for a room. That must be it. He thinks of Sandy, of a ‘yes’, bright red on valentine’s day, a bright spot, like a drop of blood against the snow.