A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

On a Sidewalk in Winter
by Nick Lyon (Aug 2010)


Her cheeks wrinkled as she smiled at me.  I laughed, a burst of fog erupting from my mouth as my breath hit the cold air.  She joined my laughter and her eyes never left mine.

         We stood on a sidewalk not far from my apartment, the thick snow piling up around our feet, and already, the tracks we’d made as we trudged our way to this spot were being covered by fresh snow.  Mine coming from one direction, hers coming from the other.  We’d met, and for a brief moment the snow recorded the history of our meeting. 

The cold didn’t matter; the hour didn’t matter; the fact that life would resume sometime after this meeting didn’t matter.  Where we were at that moment, mattered. 

         “It’s cold,” she said.

         “Yes, it is.”

In my mind, I remembered this girl; a girl with a different shade of hair, with a few less wrinkles around the eyes, and a recipe for a chocolate cake that made you feel good for eating it.  Only a few short years separated that last piece of chocolate cake and that chance meeting on a random sidewalk.

“You look great,” I said, and I tried my best not to hold out the “great” too long like my Tony the Tiger impression.

“And so do you.”

The hair that hung below her stocking cap collected the falling snowflakes until her hair looked almost white instead of brown.  Her scarf securely wrapped around her neck.  Looking at her, I remembered a heartbreak that she caused me, but wanting to forget.  Forget and concentrate only on her being here, now.

“What brings you here, to this particular sidewalk?” I asked.

“I’m on my way,” she hesitated, “to meet a date.  Stan.”

My heart breathed a quiet sigh of relief.  It narrowly escaped another brutal beating at the hands of this woman and was grateful for it. And just a hint of disappointment hung around the edges, waiting to be acknowledged.

“But,” she said.  And that same heart began to pump blood through my body at an extreme rate.  “But if you’re not doing anything, I could call it off.”

Although I planned on going up to my apartment and finally finish writing my novel, I told her that I wasn’t doing anything.  She laughed that beautiful sound that once brought a joy to my life every time I made it happen.  She knew that I did have plans, but meeting her changed them.

She pulled out her cell phone, the snow swarming around it.  She dialed a number, and I waited, patiently, trying not to listen to her conversation, or at least let her catch me.

“Hi, Stan,” she said, “I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it tonight.  The snow is just keeping me in.  Thanks for understanding.  Yeah, just give me a call sometime, and we can reschedule.  ‘Bye, Stan.”

She closed the phone, replaced it in her pocket, and once again, I found myself locking eyes with her.  We stood on that sidewalk, embracing the moment, the chance moment where two former lovers met again.  It’s what the broken-hearted dream of after a gut wrenching break up.  And it happened to me.

“Would you like to come up?” I asked her, pointing slightly in the general direction of my apartment building.

“Sure,” she said. And although the temperature outside was well below freezing, I swear the sun rose in my chest and warmed me to the tips. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the snow melting around me and steam rising where it hit.

We turned and walked to my apartment building, careful on the slick sidewalk.  My feet hurt from the cold sneaking into my not-so-warm sneakers.  I shivered slightly, thinking about sitting in my warm apartment, maybe drinking some hot chocolate and getting cozy with my ex-love.  And suddenly, I couldn’t walk fast enough.

As we walked, she slipped her arm through mine, and my eyes connected with hers, a giggle escaped her. The teeth in her smile glistened brighter than the snow, and I found myself wanting to taste the lips that framed them. And I had a strong feeling she would let me.

Before we reached my building, she tugged on my arm and stopped walking. “Are you hungry?”

I laughed. “Yeah, I am. I was going to get a pizza when I saw you. I kind of forgot all about it. Guess you still have that effect on me.”

“Well, how about it?”

“What? Pizza?”

“Of course.”

So we turned around. The pizza place, uniquely named Luigi’s, was a block away from my place. It wasn’t the best, but I ate it constantly anyway. With it being so close, I just had to.

“Do you ever think about me?” she asked, her arm still wrapped around mine as we walked.

“Well, yeah. It doesn’t seem that long ago that you and I were us. Do you think about me?”

“I do,” she said, her voice taking on a solemn tone. “I sometimes wish I wouldn’t have ended it. You know, I just wish I would have seen where things were going.”

For years, those were the words I wanted to hear. I had to remind myself that this was really happening because I had dreamed of hearing her say that for so long that it still felt like a dream.

We walked in silence for a moment, just listening to the soft crunch of the snow under our feet. For the thousands of times I pictured our reunion, I never expected anything so romantic as walking under a snow laden sky, arm in arm as if the years that separated our departure and our meeting were merely the flick of a fly’s wing.

“On a night like this, I feel like I could fall in love with you all over again,” she said.

Being a writer means I always have the words to say, but in that moment, I felt words were utterly useless. Instead, I stopped walking, turned her toward me, and with the snow falling all around us, I kissed her. I brought her face to mine, our cold, red noses grazing each other as our lips met.

Every detail, I remember. I remember the way her arms hung by her side at first, and then slowly rose to my waist where they tugged me in closer to her. I remember the soft pelting of snow landing on the skin of my face and melting there. I remember wishing I wasn’t wearing gloves so I could feel her skin. I remember kissing her, and I remember her letting me.

“Guess you read my mind,” she said when the kiss ended.

I could only smile, looking into those brown eyes, thankful for the chance to once more observe them from so close. The dark of the night and the white backdrop of our evening brought out the redness in her cheeks, the tan skin of her face, and the brown of her hair that darkened with the moisture from the snow. Suddenly I felt in love all over again.

“So about that pizza?”

I snapped out of the trance I was in. “Oh yeah. Let’s go.”

We made our way to Luigi’s and sat across from each other after we got there. We had the place to ourselves, and the smell of pizza renewed the hunger I’d forgotten. We waited patiently for our food, not really noticing how long it took. We were in our moment and as far as we were concerned, our moment could last forever. That’s the beauty of love.

Our gloveless hands found each other across the table, and we stared into the abyss of this maddening feeling. We were lost in only a few short minutes.

I barely remember the pizza, but I do remember the walk back to my apartment. Our spirits were so high that we ran, the snow continuing to fall around us, renewing the wetness on our hair and jackets. I ran a little ahead of her, laughing at the joy that randomly found me on that evening. When I turned back to look at her, a white snowball landed squarely on my face.

Her laughter erupted on impact. I barely had time to wipe the snow out of my eyes before she was throwing a second snowball at me. She missed, giving me time to scoop up some snow and retaliate. Mine hit her in the stomach and her third hit my shoulder. We were both laughing, running out of air in the cold, but not caring.

Before she could launch her forth at me, I ran at her, tackling her into a snow drift on the edge of the sidewalk. Our laughter slowly abated as we stared at each other, really seeing each other’s faces, hers framed by her moist brown hair and her blue stocking cap, mine surrounded by the falling snow. The moment felt better than most any other, just us enjoying each other.

We moved on, finally making it to my apartment two hours after first meeting on that sidewalk. We used the elevator and took the time to enjoy each other’s lips once again. It was something like a drug, to kiss her.

We laughed and loved all through the night, finally drifting into the sleep our bodies demanded sometime before daylight first broke. It was with high spirits I awoke the next morning. But my spirits fell when she wasn’t next to me. Then I heard the shower running.

As the water turned off, I lay there, thinking about her. I’m sure if I’d thought hard enough about it, I would have remembered some of the negative things about her, some of those things that eventually led to our breakup in the first place, but I was always sanding down the rough edges. I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that this was all happening for good. It was my redemption story.

She came into my room wrapped in a towel. I smiled at her, really enjoying the look of her in my room. She sat on the edge of my bed.

“Did you have fun last night?” she asked.

“Yes, of course. Didn’t you?”

She nodded, but a trace of sadness stood out on her face.

“I’m not sure I can do this,” she finally said after too many moments of silence that stabbed deeper and deeper into my gut.

Many emotions crashed down on me at that moment. The one that came out was anger.

“You can’t do this to me again,” I said. She looked hurt, and I wished I could take it back. “I’m sorry,” I said.

“No, it’s okay. I understand. I didn’t see anything happening like this.”

“Okay.” The hurt replaced the anger, and I didn’t know what else to say. I wanted to hold her, and I wanted her to leave. I was at war with my desires.

A spur of inspiration hit me. “Do you want to at least try? We can take it as slow as you want.”

“After last night?”

“Well, we can take it back a couple steps. I don’t have a problem with that.”

She sat quietly thinking about it for a few moments, and once again I felt the excruciating weight of each moment.

“If you want to, I can try.” The words came out slowly, almost as if I were forcing her to say it.

My heart leaped, and I said the only thing that made sense at the time, “Okay.”

Three weeks later, I met the woman I would marry, Chelsea. Although I have never really forgotten the chance meeting on that sidewalk in winter, the romantic view of it faded after a few days. The realities of who we were and why the relationship didn’t work in the first place hit us. It was slow at first, but we eventually got to the point where we knew it wouldn’t work.

A few weeks after meeting Chelsea, I came home to an empty apartment. There was no note, no real goodbye, but there was no longer any trace of her. Even though she and that sidewalk still haunt my mind at times, it was Chelsea who worked for me.

Even after the romance faded years later, she still worked for me.

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Revised September 2010.