Trying to do the impossible, I transform myself into a female version of Speed Racer. The pursuit: finding a place to park. I fight through the heavy traffic, cutting off before being cut off. Head first I duck my car into a tight spot a block away from the all-night grocery store.
I begin my short walk with a deep breath. The rank smell of dead fish brings to mind all the things I miss most about Brooklyn. Bouts of home sickness had me longing to blanket myself in the haze of exhaust fumes and the deafening noise of the city for the weekend.
I enjoy coming home. Especially since graduation. It’s lonely in my apartment. Just me, myself and I. I didn’t make the long lasting friendships in college some of my friends back home made. I chose a different route.
Sometimes I give serious consideration to living with a roommate. But I don’t want to move, and there’s only one bedroom in my apartment. Instead I make a point of visiting my parents and sister at least once every two weeks.
Loud, thumping music I feel in my throat blares out of car windows. A red light turns green, bringing with it the sound of screeching tires; that, I don't miss: the immature guys cruising down the avenue trying to impress girls with their way-too-loud-base-heavy-music.
Last night was the first time in months I stayed overnight in Brooklyn. I haven't partied like that in ages. Tired and hung over from a night of club hopping with my high school friends, I hoped to get home and in bed early. I didn’t plan on reminiscing with my family. But nostalgia took over.
Once my mother pulled out the old photo albums I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. The truth is, I didn't want to. Even my sister, Ava, put her social life on hold for the evening. The four of us poured over old photographs of life before our digital cameras.
Only now, I’m not sure I can make it back to my apartment. I’m fighting to keep my tired, burning eyes open. I need to grab a snack packed with enough sugar and caffeine to keep me awake for the drive.
I look around at the stores and shops, most are closed. Metal grates cover the windows. A stark contrast to my current neighborhood. That and the sheer amount of stores.
Here, they are packed close together. In Jersey, the stores and restaurants on the main streets tend to be close, but only for a few blocks. All of Brooklyn has this tight squeezed-in feel.
I’ve reached my limit of city life. At least for the time being. Right now I want to escape the beeping cars, screeching buses and blaring music. I want to climb into bed and feel my cool, crisp, sheets cradle my bare skin. I walk faster, check my watch, and yawn.
“Son of a bitch!” a male voice barks, as I bounce off what feels like a brick wall.
I look up, stunned. He’s beautiful. Sexy. Solid.
The striking man shakes his head at me. He looks down at his chest to assess the damage. I follow his gaze, and gasp as I make out the egg carton oozing gook all over his chest.
I reach into my pocket, pull a tissue out and dab the wet spot on his suit jacket. I stop suddenly. Embarrassed at the liberty I’ve taken. My hand is still touching him. Heat fills my face as I look up, and meet his eyes for the first time.
I don’t just meet his eyes, I’m lost in them. My stomach tumbles in nervous anticipation as I stand frozen, mesmerized, by his steely grey eyes.
“Forget it,” the stranger says.
I don’t want to forget it. Or him.
“The yolks on you,” I recover.
“Very funny,” he snaps.
“I didn’t mean . . .” I look away, disappointed he didn’t get my humor. Why should he be any different than the rest of the guys I've come into contact with?
“Yes, you did.” After a moment he continues. “Good thing I like my eggs scrambled,” the corners of his lips turn up ever so slightly.
Time stops. Captivated by the gleam in his eyes, I try to speak. My mouth opens, but no sound leaves it. I pull my eyes from his, once again self-conscious.
It takes an instant for me to realize how close we are. Close enough that I feel him block the cool breeze blowing behind him. We’re inches away. Much too close for strangers on a Brooklyn street corner.
I step back, retreat. If I can create space between us I can catch my breath and regain my composure. The distance helps. But he still unnerves me. Just a quick glance at him through the corner of my eye has me floating six feet off the ground.
I open my purse and reach inside, “The least I can do is pay for the dry cleaning.”
With a light touch he places his hand on my wrist. My whole arm tingles. I never felt anything like this before. I've read about it in romance novels, but I don't believe anything like this happens in real life. Until I look up and meet his eyes.
“I don’t want your money. How about a cup of coffee instead?”
“You want me to buy you coffee?”
He smiles, showing off a set of deep dimples. “I want you to join me for a cup of coffee in the café across the street.”
I look away and shake my head, “I shouldn't. I have a long drive.”
“You do owe me,” he reminds me, with a raised brow.
I press my lips into a thin line contemplating the offer. A nervous rumbling in my belly makes it clear that I want to go. I really want to go with him.
But I don’t know if I should because he has me off balance. My heart flutters like mad with every glance, and he’s so easy on the eyes, all I want to do is stare at him.
Besides, it’s late. And I am tired. Aren’t I?
My nerve endings have been leaping and swirling since we touched. Not only my nerve endings, my entire body. What better than a cup of Joe to wear off some of the surging adrenaline? Given enough time and motivation, I can justify anything.
Seeing my hesitation he coaxes me. “Just a cup of coffee.”
I’m unable to resist. What harm could come of one cup of coffee? I need caffeine. Caffeine is my friend. That’s why I bumped into him in the first place.
“Sure,” I say with a smile, “I’d love to.”