Stories

That Woman Across The Street

If you are thinking this is how I met the girl of my dreams you will be disappointed. I was sitting in Cafe Paris right across the street from Library of Greenich, people were hurrying across the square returning home or going to their odd evening jobs all too busy to notice a tiny young man sitting in the mahogany chair across plate full of Nanny’s chicken pri-pri burger and fries with tomato ketchup. The early summer evening and the busy street made me want to paint a colorful picture of the vibrant life that Greenich held in its heart. Thinking to myself I was chewing the first bite of my chicken burger when I saw her step out of the library. She took out a cigarette from her tiny dark blue clutch, lit it and took a puff. She was looking at people and then at the sky and the pebble street as she smoked. The wind was playing with her green lacy dress and she was smiling as if she knew that half the men stole a look at her before they hurried across the streets. I had stopped eating and I was lost in her mesmerizing but bizarre beauty.

Suddenly she turned towards me and her dark black eyes narrowed, oh God I was exposed! I turned back to my burger just to look in her direction a few moments later and she stepped down the pebble street onto the main road, holding her hand out signaling the cars to slow down so she can cross the street. I buried half the burger inside my mouth in a hurry and tried to look busy but it was not helping anymore. She walked towards me with a mischievous smile still smoking.

“Is this seat taken?” She beamed at me.

I am sure I stared at her few seconds before I answered, “No.”

She set across the table looking at me like she was trying to measure what kind of guy I was. “I am sorry I didn’t mean to stare.” I blubbered attempting to not be judged as a lecherous man. To which she laughed and asked, “Man? What are you? 20?”

I blushed. “I am Rohan. I am 21. You?”

Her face became serious all of a sudden and she whispered, “Shhh, I am Anastasia. You can call me Ann. And you mustn’t be asking a woman’s age!”

“How else am I to know your age?” I inquired.

“You can look up the writer’s database in the Greenich Library.” She laughed again, her laugh was beautiful like booming roses on a sunny morning. “You here to study?”

“No. I am but a traveler. It’s my last day in this city.”

She took a fry from my dish and turned away, looking at the busy street,”So, how do you like my city? Found anything special?” She asked.

“I loved The Knight Museum and the Church. People here are quite busy and polite.”

“Hmmm, boy If you call yourself a traveler you should know that visiting a city museum doesn’t count.  A city is like a woman, you have to explore it one step at a time.” She took out another cigarette from her purse, “do you mind?” She looked at me with questioning eyes.”I don’t like women that smoke.” I said.  She sighed before she lit her cigarette almost ignoring my hatred, “What a pity.”

“I am sorry but I don’t understand why you came here, set at my table judging me and making comments about how I travel?” Smitten as I was, felt angry about her guts now.

After a long puff she whispered, “I never judged you boy. I have traveled half the globe and I can tell you that visiting the most common tourist places won’t give you any pleasure. My city has many hidden histories if you took the time to read, travel and explore for yourself. I meant no offence. I smoke because I want to whether you like it or not is none of my business.” She got up to leave,”Chhha!”  She said as she waved.

I stared at her walk back to the library. “You moron! Why did you have to get angry? You could have talked nicely. You lost a chance to make one decent friend from this country!”

I had lost my appetite now but I was hungry after walking all day. In a hurry I ate the burger. The waiter brought my bill, I paid up and asked the guy if he knew who the woman was? “Who sir?” “That woman I was sitting with.” “I am sorry sir, I did not see any woman.”  I ran towards the library against my own good judgment.

I was met with lot of “Shhhhhhh” as I ran into the library. The librarian looked at me suspiciously as if I was there to steal her most prized books. I looked around trying to find her. Man this is a big library I thought to myself as I crossed the Young-Adult section. There was no sign of her. Did she disappear into thin air? Maybe I should ask the librarian. Wise thought! I said to myself in my mind.

“Excuse me, did you see a woman in a lacy green dress with a dark blue clutch in her hand?” I inquired and the librarian looked at me as if I was a pervert. “Young man, this is a library. And yes I see many women in green everyday.” I try to persuade her,”Please it’s important. She was about 5 feet 6″, she was wearing sneakers and her hair is jet black. She told her name was Anastasia, I met her across the street and I need to apologize to her.”

For the first time I saw a smile creep up on the round face. She hid the smile with her ring covered fingers before she cleaned her throat and told me, “If it’s Ann I am sure you don’t need to apologize. She wouldn’t mind. This library is made in her memory and many passer-by says that they saw her. She was a mesmerizing beauty after all. You must have seen her picture on the entrance and felt you saw her. She existed a century ago.”

“Is this a joke?” “Are you kidding with me? I am telling you, I saw her smoke and she came and set with me and we talked for sometime before I made her angry, maybe.”

The librarian pointed her finger towards the children’s section and told me to check it out, “in the top right corner you can find her books and in the entrance of the library you can see her painting hanging on the wall with the words she always told everyone. Now stop bothering me, I have work to do. Go tell your hallucinations to someone who is interested in them.”

I was lost for words. Did I just imagine meeting the most wonderful woman of my life? Was she just a wave of my mind? I walked out of the library to see the picture. There she was, I remember I glanced at her when I rushed in the library but I now that I see clearly, it is her. In all her beauty, the mischievous smile still on her lips.

 

That Woman
Anastasia John Crowker (1888-1945) An He Artistry  “If you ever find yourself doubting what you experienced, just smile.”

 

Suddenly I felt drained. I walked away still unable to understand this mystery and this mysterious woman. I turn back as I cross the street and look at her painting for the last time. Did I really just imagine it? When I reached the Airport, I promised myself never to talk to unknown women again.

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