When she first saw him the snow was falling and turning brown in the knuckled streets. The silvery hoth that was New York City had everyone shuffling along in the slush in a gray daze and she moved with the masses, mindless and numb, feeling and thinking on nothing else but how cold it was.
She wore headphones and they played some lost song on a playlist she made long ago. She’d forgotten its name. Some twang fueled banjo wondering about a sleeping hospital called St. Joseph’s. It made her think of Tom and she hated it for that, but it was too cold to pull her hands from her pockets to make a change. She had to walk on, the dead sky above her pouring out more hurt.
She was walking past Madison Square Garden when it happened, a pair of Hushpuppies on the ground in front of her. The shoes were too clean and looked too new and she knew whoever was at the other end of them had not been walking for long. They were facing the street, the shoes, and she looked up to go around them but his eyes stopped her. They held her there. He tried to smile, his cheeks shadowy, the dimples shallow.
How are you?
I’m sorry. Do I know you?
He was in all black except for the shoes and the gloves and those were brown. Snow fell on his suit and melted instantly. He put off heat. Who was this? She tried to walk off but his voice made her feet still.
My name is James Dolan. I’m here to rescue you.
She looked down at the sidewalk, her eyes searching. On the ground was a New York Times, muddy, shredded.
Why do I?…Do I know you?
You might have heard of me before, but no. You don’t know me. Few do.
Well, look, I don’t need rescuing.
She tried to walk off once more. Again his voice, that baritone, kept her there. She kept her eyes on the ground.
Katie, I know how hard it is.
She looked up. He was only looking at her eyes. She was studying his face. How his sad eyes were drooping, the bags below them like folded Splenda packets connecting with his cheeks. How long his face was. His tall ears. He probably dyed his hair. It sad on his head like it didn’t want to be there. She hated herself for judging him so, but how could a man that looks like this have so much confidence? What did he possess? What was inside him?
What do you do?
Oh, a bit of everything, really. I run a little television station. I run a basketball team.
He gestured to the Garden and kept going.
But my true passion? See, I have this band.
Yes. A band.
We are. We’re called JD & the Straight Shot. See, I’m JD, James Dolan. It’s my band.
What do you play?
The guitar. I’m lead vocals, too, so.
Are you good?
His eyes were desperate but that did not bother her.
I’m headed to a gig right now. It’s over in Greenpoint. Some cafe. Come with me.
James, I don’t even know you.
You will. Soon.
He held his hand out. This was when she first noticed the Town Car waiting along the curb, it’s hazards blinking on his face. He worked up a smile. His teeth were so white they looked fake.
Come. I’ll sing a song for you.
She placed her hand and her heart in his hand and he led her to the car. She was gliding. He felt right.
(Photo at top: Reuters)