walking

She’d never forget the first time they met. He was upset. A girl had backed out of his date, and he was all dressed up, looking forward to a night out, perhaps a bit nervous.

And then they were sitting together, making awkward small talk. She didn’t think anything of it; he probably didn’t either at the time.

Fast forward four months, and they were lost in Prospect Park on a crisp day. It was strange – this being their first time actually hanging out face-to-face since that night. A lesbian couple gave them a passing hello, and told them that they made a cute couple. She joked as they walked on, asking him when the wedding was.

They laughed, and it was easy.

That night, he asked if he could hold her hand as they walked to dinner. It was strangely comfortable, half a dinner between friends, half a real date. The waitress was somehow more awkward than them, and they laughed when she left. It was a nice night.

She saw him once again, before they stopped talking. Before they decided not to proceed. They didn’t talk for months.

Then he came back. Just as before, talking was easy – the banter, gifs and jokes bouncing back and forth.

There was the night they wandered around the Upper East Side, stopping at her favorite bar, which she knew he didn’t really like. They left and he decided to be spontaneous on purpose, making a sudden decision that they would stop into any place that looked interesting; see where the night led. She doesn’t remember the name of the Mexican restaurant they found, but she knew it was the best mojito she’d ever had. She promised the bartender she would return, but she’s never been able to find the restaurant. Maybe it was a dream.

He ribbed her here and there for just wanting to be friends. They talked about their dates and how they all sucked. They watched a playoff game, rooting for opposing teams, drinking too much wine and beer. She walked back across town that night, feeling oddly light.

He FaceTimed her to show her his new haircut. He shared his struggle with school and training, his frustration with this city. He needed a distraction, so they met up on a warm summer night – those nights that might last forever – and walked for hours.

At the 1 station, he insisted on sitting on a subway bench. They were dirty and she protested, so he made her sit on his lap. It was oddly comforting. They sat in breathless silence, the station humming around them.

He wanted to go to Chelsea Market, but she took him to the High Line. He’d never been. They walked above the city, cars and people and noise thrumming below them. The night was so still, the lights so bright. He talked about building a paradise in the middle of this crazy city, and how odd it was, these lawns and plants and benches and fountains suspended above the cityscape.

They walked back uptown, sometimes brushing against each other, moving silently through the night. At his place, he changed and they went back out, not wanting to say goodnight to this city.

He walked her home. They hugged, fell apart, hesitated for a beat. He pulled her in again and thanked her for walking with him.

She said she would always walk with him, and they went their separate ways into the night.

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