If it weren’t for the taxi cab jumping the curb, Evelyn might never had met him. His steadying presence saved her from falling onto the cold concrete of the uncaring sidewalk.
“Oh, pardon me!” she said, her hand flattening against him as she regained her footing.
He regarded her placidly.
She withdrew her hand, blushing slightly, leaving a smear of mustard on his sleek limestone-colored coat.
“That will never do, let me wipe it up. I’ve got a napkin here somewhere, just a moment. I don’t suppose you could hold my hot dog for a minute?” Evelyn said as she tried to open her purse with one hand, balancing the half-eaten hot dog in the other.
“No, of course not, you’d only get more mustard on you! How silly of me. Oh here we go, voilà, I found the napkin,” she said, as she wiped at the yellow stain.
She admired his elegant frame as she brushed the napkin against him, but dared not look up from her task, fearing his imposing height would make her swoon.
“Hey lady, are yuh okay, or what?” asked the hot dog vendor, who was watching from across the street.
“What? Yes, yes, I’m fine. I’m just helping my friend here, I’ve managed to get mustard on him. Ha ha. So clumsy of me.”
“Your friend?....Ah, okay, whatevah floats your boat, lady,” he said. “Hot dogs, get yah delicious new yawhk hot dogs here!”
“I hope you don’t mind me calling you my friend,” she whispered, “I know we’ve only just met. That hot dog guy, he was just so, so nosy, you know?
If he was offended by her familiarity, he revealed nothing.
“I, uh, I usually don’t do this kind of thing,” Evelyn said. “But I’d…I’d like to see you again."
She pressed her palm against him gently, leaning closer. “Meet me here tonight. Eight o’clock,” she laughed as she walked backwards a few steps, her eyes lingering for a few moments more, before turning on her heels and striding away.
Back in the hotel room, she changed into her red dress, the one with the sweetheart neckline and the pleated crepe skirt that fanned out beneath the cinched waistline. She twirled in the full-length mirror, pleased with the reflection. On the thirteen-hour bus ride from Meadville, Pennsylvania she’d had plenty of time to plan. She was determined she would not be single for another Valentine’s Day.
Opening up her journal, she reviewed the characteristics she wanted in her ideal partner. ‘Strong, silent. Elegant and reserved, but solid and reliable.’ She picked up the pen and added ‘tall’ to the list. Evelyn was a strong believer in the power of positive thinking. The more clearly she pictured something happening, the more likely it was to happen.
Her phone rang. She looked at the screen, saw who was calling, and went back to styling her hair. A few moments later her phone chirped with the arrival of a text message. Evelyn scanned it quickly.
Doctor Marsh: Are you okay? You missed your appointment today.
She considered ignoring it, but worried what the Doc would do if she didn’t respond. She hit the redial button and waited.
“Evelyn, thanks for calling back. Are you alright?” Dr. Marsh asked.
“Where are you?”
“New York City. I wanted to get away for a few days.”
“I see. Are you with anyone, or..?”
“No, I wanted to be on my own.”
“When are you coming back?”
“I’ve got a hotel room for another night. But I’ve met someone special, and if everything goes the way I’ve pictured it, I might stay longer,” Evelyn said, tucking an auburn strand of hair behind her ear.
“What’s the name of this special someone?”
“We didn’t bother with exchanging names, our connection went much deeper than that.”
“I’m seeing him tonight. He’s famous you know.”
“How is he famous?”
“Oh, Dr. Marsh, I’m sure even you would recognize him from the movies. Anytime they film something in New York, they ask him to be in it. He towers over all others, except for those gaudy twin brothers, but they’ve bowed out now, and he’s back in the limelight.”
“Evelyn, we’ve discussed this—”
“Just because you think I have a problem, doesn’t mean I have one.”
“You’re still on parole. You’re not meant to leave Pennsylvania. If you make a scene again, you can be arrested.”
“The perverts who were watching that night, they're the one who ought to have been arrested, not me! We waited until the town square was empty, until everyone had gone home for the night, before we shared an intimate, romantic moment, like millions of couples do!"
“Okay, okay, Evelyn...You’re meeting this special someone tonight? Is it a first date?”
“So, no harm in taking it slow, right. Getting to know each other, building trust—”
“I won’t be controlled by the patriarchy, Dr. Marsh," Evelyn said, hanging up swiftly.
Outside in the cool evening air, Evelyn took a deep breath and applied another layer of her favorite lipstick, Firehouse Red, before rounding the corner. She smiled when she saw him, standing where they’d first met.
“Hiya, handsome,” she breathed, “Fancy meeting you here.”
She gazed at his fine form approvingly. “You look nice. With or without condiments,” she said, playfully tracing a heart over the space where she’d spilled the mustard. “A bit shy, are you?” she said as she unbuttoned the top button on her dress and licked her lips. “That’s alright, I don’t mind making the first move.”
Two police officers approached her quietly.
“That has to be her right?” Officer Heinz said.
“Yeah, her doctor thought she might be here tonight. Here or the Chrysler Building.” Officer Melon replied.
“What do you think she’s doing?” Heinz asked. “You ever seen anything like it?”
“Nope, but I looked it up on Wikipedia. There was a woman who married the Eiffel Tower.”
“What the f—”
“What’s wrong wit’ her?” the hot dog hawker asked. “She was actin’ funny earlier today.”
“Evening, Tony," Officer Melon responded, recognizing the hawker. "She has some mental health issues. Objectophilia, to be precise.”
“Objecto wha?” Tony asked.
“It’s what happens when someone is uh, romantically attracted to an inanimate object." Officer Melon explained. "In this case," she said, waving her hand in the direction of the skyscraper, “the Empire State Building.”
“Sweet baby Jesus on a pogo stick," Tony said, shaking his head.
As the police led Evelyn away, she gazed longingly toward the façade, glinting in the streetlights, and shouted, "Wait for me!”
He regarded her, resolute and silent, unable to respond. A perfect lipstick kiss, the last reminder of their first date, pressed with affection onto his granite face.