I grab the bar above my head; holding on as the subway train makes its way through the complicated, twisted tunnels. The man beside me is wearing his cologne. Suddenly, I am seventeen years old again, my heart beats a bit quicker. After ten years, you'd think I would be used to it. After two years, you'd think I would have reversed the Pavlovian response I have to the smell. To the smell of him.
The train jerks to a stop, and I suddenly remember that it's my stop. I rush out past the closing doors, barely making it onto the platform. Self-consciously, I pat down my pea coat and adjust my leather camera bag, throwing a cursory glance around to make sure no one witnessed my near-miss.
By the time I reach the surface, my face is hot; the escalators aren't working this evening. The cold air hits my skin, I take a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. I take a deep breath, my lungs burn. I make my way down the sidewalk quickly- the sooner I get inside, the sooner I can have a drink and pretend that everything is fine.
Just thinking about the apartment squeezes my heart. My eyes sting, and I'm suddenly not sure if it's from the cold air or the tears.
There is a couple walking in front of me. Their hands intertwined, intense glances pass between them. Her dress is short, her legs are bare. She is crazy for dressing like that in the winter. But he seems to love it- his hand snakes down to her ass, rubbing. I'm not sure whether the bile in my throat is due to revulsion or envy. It's been two years, after all.
The steps to the building have been cleared of snow, and the salt crunches underneath my boots. Lined combat boots... Not feminine at all, he would always say. I always thought it was a complement- he liked me different, he liked me quirky- but now I'm more inclined to think that it was a critique. Maybe if I wore some of those fancy, expensive leather contraptions that everyone else wears he'd... Maybe if I could just have... No. No.
My boots hit the steps of the old wooden staircase one at a time. I very well may be taking my time. Huh, curious! I'd never noticed that the walls were robin's egg blue before.
Too soon, I'm at the landing. The landing. I'm at the door. The door. A deep breath. A very deep breath. I dig around my coat pockets for my key. Insert, twist, push.
I look around, making sure there's no sign of him. I put my bag onto the counter in the entrance hall, pulling out the Compact Flash card from my camera. No use in sitting, twiddling my thumbs, waiting.
A mug of jasmine tea, my computer. I'm uploading all the pictures I've taken today, praying that at least one shot will be to my liking- there's only a month left before my next exhibition. The mug is halfway to my lips when a buzz breaks through the air. Him.
I'm standing at the door, my ear pressed up against the wood. I swear, I can almost hear his breath.
My fingers find the latch, and it begins...