Walking around my neighborhood late at night is one of my favorite things to do. I have a favorite block and everything. For the most part, walks around my neighborhood are pretty uneventful. That is until they're not.
I walk up the street, listening to my playlist for such purposes. If there is something more extreme than tunnel vision, I have it. I look straight ahead, but not really looking at anything at all. Just thinking - about what I want out of that evening, the next few days, my life. I remember this because it would've taken something pretty unique to break me from my revere. As I pass over a vent, my playlist switches songs, and in the lag between one song and the next, a sound floats up to my ears. I immediately identify it as the notes of a saxophone. Grow up with a jazz-crazed father, and you learn to make out an instrument by the blow of a single note. But where was this music coming from? I check Spotify to see if it had switched stations. Nope. Beneath my feet is a subway vent and when I turn my ear to the ground I hear it more clearly. The closer I get to the vent, the louder it becomes. I want to memorialize the moment, to record the melody streaming from underground (to post on IG, which of course I did). So there I am squatting over a subway vent with my cellphone hovering above it on one of the busiest streets in the city. Not my finest moment. And then this happens.
Listen closely :)
Did you hear that? While I am, you know, squatting over the vent like I'm trying to piss on a subway train, someone bends down near me and asks me "What's down there?"
After I tell him about the music, he says "Oh yeah, you're very astute." He then proceeds to tell me (not on the recording) that he is a studier of music and all things of beautiful and artistic.
"Be careful with your phone, but be sure to capture magic," he says before he stands up and walks away. I smile because, quite frankly, it was a sweet gesture, and continue to record.
Fifteen seconds later, I hear "Are you available? Are you available?" being repeated over my shoulder and growing louder. I stand up and whirl around and the same man is standing in front of me. Now, I can see him clearly: he's in tattered jeans, stained with work, a plain white tee and work boots; there's a bag slung over his arm and he runs his free hand over the surface of his crewcut. He's cute in that sweet sort of way, and he's staring at me while he waits for an answer. Not nervously or expectantly, just confidently.
"For what?" I respond, not impolitely. Now, he looks a little nervous, "To grab something to eat," he adds, "On me. There's a place just around the corner."
"I'm not really available. I'm sorry," I wince in discomfort, because I'm awkward and I don't know how to let people down easily. He seems unperturbed, "Oh, you just came from the gym, right?" I look down at my ensemble. I've unknowingly dressed myself in gym clothes. Should I tell him the truth? That I'm in a committed relationship and I'm not interested? Should I say it like that, or should I just say 'I have a boyfriend. Sorry.' and smile wistfully? Or should I just lie?
Um, yeah," I say, and smile awkwardly, not wistfully, "I was just walking home." I attempt at looking sorry, which I am, but I'm not sure it registers on my face. I opt for the latter choices in my inner monologue. You've never seen him before, you'll never see him again, I think. Why shut him down?
"It was still wonderful to meet you..." he waits for me to fill in my name, "Kari. If only for a moment. Next time?"
Sah-woon. I nod dumbly because I don't know how else to react, and watch his retreating figure. He bops down the street in this really endearing way, the gait I'd imagine for a character with stories to tell, and it makes me smile. As I walk home, I think about not only how gosh darn sweet that was, but how much courage that took. (I also glance over my shoulder to make sure he's not following me, because sweet or not, let's be real.) I wonder briefly what it would've been like if I had been in the position to say 'yes'. Would we have hit it off? Would he continue to say things that made me smile? Would he be able to make me laugh? Would we have ended up going our separate ways or would I have seen him again? Would we get married in 2 years and raise children in Northern New Jersey? (Just kidding.) The point is he put himself out there, so he won't wonder. I won't either, but it made me think of how many other things I wonder about because I didn't put myself out there. Just a thought.
I wish I could have captured that moment. I probably should have titled this blog "Capture Magic." But where's the fun in that?