I stare in the mirror. I don't like what looks back at me. A man with no direction. With a suitcase in his hand and cold grey eyes. An overgrown stubble. Dark purple under-eyes. My face forms into a smile, skin creasing along the corners of my mouth. It seems forced and I slowly allow my mouth to set back into it's normal position. In the mirror, I see a woman. Her hair is this blue-red like melted jolly ranchers. Her eyes are lined with thick eyeliner and her lips are bold red. She smiles. It's not beautiful. It's not pretty. It's stunning. Her small distant face becomes closer and closer until I can see the small freckles under her eyes.
"Hey." She looks at me in a way no one has every looked at me before.
"Hey." I look down at my shoes.
"Hi." I echo.
"So, you're a lawyer."
"What?" I look over at her in confusion.
"You're a lawyer. Work ends at 7/8. You're here, staring at the mirror, comtemplating your life choices. You're waiting in the lobby for you're takeout to magically appear because you're too tired to go out. Then you are going to go to sleep, wake up for work at 5 and the same sequence is going to repeat until you get married to a plain woman and move to the suburbs. Have a few kids and call it quits."
"I-uh-what are you listening to?"
"This song will change your life." She pushes the headphones over my ears. Chords strum. Trumpets groan and roar. Her pellet blue eyes stare at me like knives piercing into my body. Her hair is a road, travelling along her shoulders and curling around her ears.
"I need to go," I pull the headphones over my ears and place them gently back on hers. "Work day tomorrow."
"Need company? Takeout isn't takeout without some company."
"Y'know what, sure." I nod.
She leaves without a trace but a lasting impression. I lay in bed staring at the popcorn ceiling, nesting my head in the hard pillow. I turn over and grab the phone from the side-table. I dial slowly, each number with more hesitation. The phone rings.
"This is not the time man, I just scored a-"
"Hank. I think I'm in love."
"What? Should I come over, are you drunk? Overdose?"
"I just met her and I'm in love."
"Her name is Nova. She's-she's amazing."
"You just met her?"
"She has this laugh. I can't even describe it. And her hair is so pretty. Her eyes-her eyes. She's so funny and I wanna marry her."
"Let's not relive Frozen."
"I'll tell you more tomorrow."
"Can't wait." he hangs up.
I wait in the lobby. Staring at the mirror, waiting to see her face. I can hear her laugh. Feel her skin. See her eyes. But she's not there. I'm alone in my reflection.
The night is empty. Not a single person in sight. I brace myself for a girl with blue-red hair. No one. Then I see her. A set of piercing blue eyes like a lighthouse. She's standing under a streetlamp, soaked in the streaming white light. She starts hugging onto it for support. I notice the shiny green broken glass glinting like stars on the road. I start to run. Her eyes are trimmed with droplets of water. Her face is blanketed in her own tears.
I don't say anything. Just stare into her eyes. Searching for the reason. The reason for this. She's sad. The way she holds herself. Slumped and timid. Different from the confident strong Nova I know. She doesn't say anything either. Just looks at me. She out-stretches her arms and I wrap mine around her. We hug. The silence is enough to fullfill us both.
She sleeps on the bed of my condo room. I sleep on the ground with a soft pillow to support my head. I watch her. I never get bored. Just stare at her body in it's perfectness. The way her chest moves in and out. Her long eyelashes covering the rim of her eye. I watch her all night. Just watch her. Just love her.
She wakes up soon after. I pretend to sleep but from a peripheral view I watch as she slides off the bed without making a sound. She arches her toes as she slithers towards the door.
She sighs and looks at me. I get up, stretching my sore arms. I walk over to her. Her features are expanded. Lips bigger. Eyes dazed. Without thinking, I kiss her. She kisses me back. I've never kissed anyone before. But everything comes together. It feels perfect. I feel adrenaline coursing through my body, filling my veins with electricity. She pulls away, brushing her thumb on my chin. Then, she slumps her bag over her shoulder and walks away.
She tells me to meet her at 5th avenue. I do. There's so many people big and small, I don't see her. But when she walks out of a bright yellow taxi, I recognize her instantly. She has her headphones on as she struts over to me.
"Listen." She pushes them over my ears. "Another brick in the wall."
I smile as the strumming guitar pounds my ears.
"I've always wanted to do this." She grins, "Follow me."
I follow her, through crowds of people, keeping my eyes glued to her emerald shirt. She stops at a small alleyway and turns right.
"Look." She points at a monotonous brick wall like anything I've ever seen before. Then she starts rummaging in her backpack and pulls out two bright rusted spray cans.
"Is this legal?"
"We'll find out."
I ignore the inner voice in the back of my head and take the bright blue one.
"Pick a brick. One brick and do whatever you want to it."
I pick a smooth flawless brick and start to spray ridged stripes on it. I glance over at her brick. It's a mosaic of flowers and faces.
"Done," she wipes her forehead with her wrist, "That's you and me." She points to the two bricks.
She unplugs her headphones out of her walkman and puts the volume on the highest setting. It's a feeling that hits me. An intuition.
"I love you!" I scream over the loud music.
"I! Love! You!" I scream the words with every last drop of energy I have.
She turns off her walkman. The look in her eyes, it's hesitant. Not mutual.
"No, please don't. Please don't."
"What, what do you mean?"
"I don't want to be put in a cage."
"I want to love you Nova."
"It's complicated." She looks down, shaking her head. Her eyes become shiny like they're coated with glass.
"No matter how complicated it is, I'll listen."
"I don't do relationships. I don't do stuff like that."
"I love you and I won't stop no matter how hard you try." I feel tears welling in my eyes. My voice starts to break.
"No-just no." She grabs the two empty spray cans of the ground and stuffs them in her bag. She slings the bag over her shoulder and starts to walk away.
"I love you." I stand, my legs trembling. I slump across the wall, feeling the cold brick on my back. The tears come like a waterfall now. The sun's setting. A silhouette of two birds fly across the sky.
My life turns black and white. The cycle of work and sleep becomes and so unbalanced that work overtakes sleep. My eyes are lined with red. My heart is empty. Everywhere I go, I see her face. Nova's face. In a bus, she's there. In work, she's there. At home, she's still lying on the bed. She's tatooed in my brain.
I see her in the mirror a week later. Her name is Aalan. Her hair is blonde. Her eyes are blue. I walk up to her and slide my headphones over her hears. Her laugh is like a lantern in my life. She never let go.