The clammy darkness of his hands encased her eyes, like a giant second eyelid that was more difficult to open, more persistant in hiding her vision from what was to come. She could smell the unusual scent of Dior's Fahrenheit and pretzels on his fingers. It was her last night, after a long and beautiful two months, so he'd treated her to a large doughy pretzel from a street vendor, amongst other things.
It wasn't much; other guys would've taken her to a fancy restaurant or bought her exquisite gifts to take home and commemorate the wonderful time she'd had in the city.
He was different, though. He knew she could get any of the finer things she wanted back home - giving her the last taste was the best gift he could give. They'd already spent the slushy cold morning ploughing through the streets, eating cheese pizza slices for breakfast from Mama Sbarro's like she'd requested. Then, they had drifted in and out of art galleries, relishing every drop of paint that their eyes feasted on together. She'd posed in the most ridiculous and hilarious poses beside sculptures and statues, and his arm stretched out in front of them with the camera pointing at them, ready to snap the most candid pictures of them and make the memories everlasting.
He preferred Polaroids. There was something about the instantaneous response from the camera that thrilled him. Back at his apartment, he'd watched her slowly get dressed for the day, slipping her tights on, and then pulling her undershirt over her lacy black bra. They'd become best friends over time, and she'd learned to appreciate his voyeuristic side. He'd spent the earlier hours of the freezing morning sprawled on the couch, snapping away at her with his Polaroid camera, documenting her every move like she was a wild animal in the jungle.
He would miss her, and that was a definite.
The pretzel he'd bought for the both of them was exactly what they needed. The already gloomy sky was becoming more overcast, as if darkened by the sadness of her leaving and going back home. "Don't cry, Concrete Jungle," she smiled, looking up at the sky. "I'll be back soon."
The magnificent skyscrapers dabbled with lit windows looked down on her with such sorrow, as if to say "You'd better be back soon. Please, don't go."
She blew a kiss to the sky as he finished up paying the street vendor for the pretzels, handing her the hot twist of dough in tissue paper. She wolfed the pretzel down like a homeless man would, only then realizing how hungry all that walking had made them. "How about some roti?" she asked.
"Not now," he smiled with satisfaction. She had never tried Trinidadian cuisine before she met him, and when he popped the first piece of roti in her mouth, he sent her up to Heaven and back. Now she wondered how she'd ever go back home to live without it.
She tore off bits of her pretzel and dunked them into the creamy yellow mustard that he held out in the tiny plastic cup. The salty warmth of the dough and the depth of the mustard's flavor settled itself on her lips against the faint sweetness of the slushy rain.
"The city tastes so good," she closed her eyes in bliss.
"It only tastes better when you're here," he enveloped her small hand in his, and they continued their walk.
A block away from their destination, he'd stood behind her and covered her eyes, guiding her through the city bustle as if she were blind, or as if he were teaching a baby how to walk. At first she protested, annoyed with the fact that his hands were stealing her last looks of the people walking by. She wanted to capture every image in her mind, and all he was doing was filtering the images with his dark palms and fingers.
"Shhhh," he hushed into her ear, and for the first time since she got there, his voice had sent warm tingles up and down her spine. "Trust me."
"I do," she closed her eyes underneath the nest of his fingers, as if to affirm her trust for him by blinding herself just a little bit more.
"Good evening, sir," she heard a woman say, and the freezing cold of the February night was replaced with a warmth that only a fireplace in a hotel lobby could bring.
She was right: the elevator dinged and they shuffled into it together like two bodies frozen to one another, his palms still covering her eyes.
"Where are we?" she asked, the frustration and anticipation building up inside of her.
"You'll see," he replied, the smile audible in his voice.
The elevator dinged again, the doors opening and making way for the surprise. The bitter cold slapped them in the face again, and though it was unpleasant on her skin, her insides where bubbling over with excitement.
His fingers made way for her vision.
And what a vision it was.
They were on the rooftop of the AKA Hotel. It wasn't the highest building in the city, but it was high enough. The rooftop was aglow with city lights radiating from the skyscrapers surrounding them. Tall fathers and mothers protecting their beautiful child. She gasped at the wonderous sight.
Gaslamp heaters stood in every corner, watching and waiting to see what will happen next. He led her to a white table with a short vase of white roses (her favorite) in the center.
"What is all this?" she asked in wonder and amazement. The sight took her breath away. He didn't answer, but she was used to his random bouts of silence. His silence spoke words to her and inspired her to ponder and answer her own questions. He challenged her every chance he got, and she loved it. He built her up higher than any tall building, so rigid and strong-willed and determined, with a foundation of the strongest heart.
This moment was for them to cherish. He tucked her hair, which was being whipped around her face by the unruly wind, behind her ear and seated her to a feast of fresh roti, Doubles, curry, and all of her favorite Trini foods which he'd accustomed her to. They ate as if it were their last meal on earth, mopping up the traces of curry on their plates with bits of roti and their fingers, and kissing their fingers clean.
Again, he took her by the hand and helped her up, her body weighed down by the delicious meal. As if on cue, Stevie Wonder's "Love Light In Flight" came on on the surround-sound speakers, serenading them as they danced the night away.
The city lights twinkled over them lovingly, lighting their way as he held her close to his chest and swayed to the smooth disco rhythm.
In her mind, she was at the highest point in life, right below Heaven, gliding through the galaxies in a glass spaceship. No one made her feel that way, and no one will make her feel that way.
All that was left were Polaroids strewn on the apartment floor.
FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Theophilus London - Light Years
Theophilus London - Hey Wonderful
Stevie Wonder - Love Light In Flight
D-Train - You're The One For Me
Jean Carne - Was That All It Was?