Above a Chinese Restaurant.
Theres no room for nature in an urban setting. No ground for trees to grow from, no open spaces for fields of grass, no fresh air for flowers to breathe. Amelia remembered a time when March rain showers were a release from the stagnation of life, when they cleansed the burden of sorrow and melancholy from her mind. She remembered how the air smelled so fresh after the first five minutes of rain and how she could sit, just sit there, on her fathers front porch and listen to the heavy patter of life pouring from the sky from the early afternoon until the last fragments of dusk faded into night. The flashes of the lightning and the rumble of the thunder were more beautiful to her than the sight of her mother sitting in the sunlight, asleep with her baby brother Thomas in her arms while the grandfather clock ticked away the seconds and the minutes into eternity. The rain always provided Amelia with a special comfort that can only be expressed in terms of love.
But in the city, nature loses its beauty and forfeits its majesty. Amelia rode the midtown green-line bus under a thick blanket of rainclouds that hung ominously over metropolitan isolation in a metaphorical fashion come to life. Amelia looked up but didnt see the clouds in the same way she did when she was eleven. Instead of representing the beauty she once felt, the grey represented the regret she was now feeling.
Shed spent all of her life shying away from those she loved, afraid that if she ever gave too much to one person shed never get any of it back ever again. Time and time again shed missed chances at happiness because of her inability to offer all she had. This time it was with Lowell, and this time shed regretted it with such clarity that for the first time she was willing to give a serious relationship a chance.
Friendship is a funny thing. There can be acquaintances in ones life, there can be best friends, there can be friends that you know you love like a love that you never knew existed. Friends you would do anything for. Friends that you know will be in your life until the day you die. Amelia had a friend for life in Lowell. He came into her life quietly, and their karmas wrapped slowly around each other over the years. She thought back to how he was always there for her, and all of that lame stuff you dont talk about without sounding like a fool. Little things. Holding the door open for her. Listening to her complain about everyone and everything. How he never judged her for anything she did. Flowers on her birthday, dinners on the holidays. If shed only knew how he quietly looked upon her when she sat reading on the couch or flipping through catalogues, shed have gracefully fallen for him.
But shed never thought of him in that way. In the boyfriend way. She knew more about Lowell than anyone else in her life, and no one knew her like he did. Never before meeting Lowell had she felt so close to another human being. The more and more she thought about it, the more it made sense that they be together. Except he wasnt answering his phone anymore.
Three weeks ago, shed met Ted. He asked her out after theyd struck up a conversation at Phillys Books about Harry Potter, of all things. Two nights later they went out to dinner at the Pedro Grill, and then went to a poetry reading downtown. Amelia had a great time with Ted, and was bursting with joy when she called Lowell to tell him about the date.
The conversation started off with Lowell in a giddy mood, as was the usual with him. But as soon as Amelia mentioned the previous nights activities, his disposition quickly switched to tired and irritable.
A date, huh? The words were heavy. Borderline sarcastic.
Hes great. He works for an ad agency.
So hes rich. Good for him. Lowell sounded distant.
Cut it out. Hes nice, and he knows how to treat a lady to a good time. Whats wrong with you, dorko? Wake up.
Ive got a good feeling about Ted. I think I can actually be -- Amelia hesitated -- happy with him. You know how long its been since Ive been happy.
But youre happy when youre with me.
The remark cut deep. Amelia wasnt sure why it hurt. Maybe because she didnt want to admit that he was right. Maybe because, somewhere along the way, she had opened up completely to him without ever realizing it.
Hey listen, Ive got to go. Ill call you later.
Amelia had a sinking feeling that he wouldnt. Not for awhile, at least. And he didnt.
The days melted into a week. A week into three. She never saw Ted after the first date, and was consumed with guilt and desperation over Lowell. She tried and tried to get ahold of him, calling him at home and leaving messages on his voicemail at work. But hed disappeared. So she found herself on the midtown green-line bus headed towards Jackson St., where Lowell lived in a loft above a Chinese restaurant called Lucky Chus, hoping that he would be home.
The bus spewed black fumes that faded into the thick air as passengers were rocked back and forth by the rough patches of an avenue worn down by years upon years of use. Amelia watched the city outside pass by. So many faces that will never mean a thing to her, so many lives that will never make an impact on hers, so many stories that shell never hear. In such a large and busy world, she had found solace in the fact that someone out there had actually wanted to be with her. Someone had actually wanted to make her happy. And hed been sitting right next to her all along.
As the bus pulled up to the stop at the corner of Sandoval and Jackson, Amelia pulled her umbrella out of her backpack. The sky had gone dark, foreshadowing rain. She got up from her seat, umbrella in one hand and backpack hanging from the other. With great force and quite by surprise, someone ran into Amelia and she heard something hit the ground with a thwack.
Sh-- Maggie cut herself off before she could finish the obscenity, mindful of the children that were sitting to her left. She watched her cell phone fall to the floor of the bus, take a really nasty bounce, and slide under the seat of an old man wearing a beret and a twill blazer. She got down on one knee and reached to pick up her phone. She got back up and turned to apologize to the young lady shed just knocked into.
Im so sorry, Maggie said to the petite blue-eyed girl holding a blue umbrella in her left hand and a red backpack in her right.
Its okay. Dont worry about it. Is your phone alright? She smiled with a genuineness that Maggie had forgotten existed in this city.
Maggie examined a nick that was taken out of the lower left-hand corner. Itll survive. Really, Im sorry. Im a little out of my head right now.
We all are. Her smile refused to fade.
Maggie smiled back, went to the doors, and pushed them open. She was
viciously embarrassed by what shed just done and rushed to be out of the dirty bus
as soon as possible. She walked away, along the tail end of the bus, down Sandoval Ave.
Maggie looked back over her shoulder. She saw the pretty blue-eyed girl get off the bus
and put on the backpack. The girl ran a hand through her brown hair, and walked away in
the opposite direction of Maggie, towards Jackson St. Wow. What a nice girl, she
thought. So happy, without a care in the world. Wish I had a life like hers.