Meeting Gabe: An Excerpt

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     I stood in the hall and pushed the button to wait for the elevator.  The meeting had gone well enough.  Mr. Stark seemed to like my layout.

     “The Bethesda Angel pointing down to the viewer is nice.  It’s simple.  It’s lovely.”

     He’d actually said those words.  I remember standing in the empty fountain during the freeze, lens pointed up at the angel.

     The lights above the elevator door lit, ascending to higher numbers.  The door would open.  Mr. Stark had loved my Bethesda angel.

     Under the bridge to the stairs leading to the fountain, a man dressed in a blood-red cloak, with long black hair and a hat with colored tassels as long as his hair, had bowed and chanted.  He had a bagpipe and bellowed from it and then from his own throat, calling out to the cold air and the freezing water.  In the summer there are boats floating on that water.  I had stood in the fountain and pointed my lens at the angel’s figure.  Then I heard the shutter click.  My camera has a click as the shutter snaps.  It’s a satisfying noise.  Final.  Resolute.

     I’m walking out onto the street now.  I stop at the curb and realize I can’t remember the space between waiting for the elevator car and stepping into it; or even pushing the button to the lobby floor.  Or waiting.  Or feeling that flutter in my stomach as the car dropped to the ground.

     Now I watch the cars pass me on the street.  A cab honks and stops ahead of me for a woman wearing a rouge, microfiber jacket and a cerulean and lavender-dappled shawl draped over that.  She ducks into the car.

     Then I see his hand, not the angel’s hand this time.  It’s his hand; Gabe’s hand, swiping a credit card in the slot beneath the cab’s advertisement screen as he had done so many many times.

     “Thank you.”  He would say and then pass me my credit card.

     He would walk into the condo lobby on 145th as if he had been there a thousand times.

     “Hello.” He would say to the doorman and nod, making straight for the elevator.

     Now, back on the street, I watch the woman’s cab pull away into traffic.  He’s not here now.  It’s just a tracer that moves with the color of the cab. Or maybe the movement of today.

     I met him on the angel day - Gabriel.  He was sitting on the steps just beyond the chanting man at the park, perched on cold stone.  His mouth was not exactly pursed but closed in a way of resolve, of knowing.  He had a tranquil look on his face that accompanied that knowing line of his lips.

     I snapped the photo and stepped out from the empty pond.  I held my camera to me and knew I had gotten what I wanted that day.  And as I cradled my camera to me, I felt the sound of the chanting man’s bagpipe move through my clothes and into my skin.  Then his voice rose and climbed through the cells of my back to my shoulders.  I turned and walked out, stepping lightly over the lips of the font and across the way ahead.  I passed the chanting man and smiled.  The world was here.

     I approached the stairs and the silhouette of another man moved into my consciousness.  Then I saw him.  I saw him.  I stopped.  I stopped and beheld Gabe and his lips.  He looked at me.  He did not point.  He merely smiled.