Gray eyes. Had Jed ever met anyone with eyes that color before? Eyes like smoke and aerated water. Eyes whose pupils started out like inky pinpoints but blew wide as if their owner saw something that dumped a load of adrenaline into his veins…
Jed stood, and pressed his face to the glass to keep eye contact. When the bus swerved around a corner, the ache of loss felt like a hammer-blow. Without looking away from the sidewalk, he tangled his fingers in the plastic line overhead, yanking hard to signal his was the next stop — even though he was still over a mile from home.
When the man with the extraordinary gray eyes rounded the corner at a run, Jed let out a shuddering sigh of happiness. Maybe…
Jed’s heart thundered as he kept watch out the window. The girl beside him had her music turned up too loud. He heard the plaintive notes of a familiar song through her earbuds — he could almost hear the words.
One step closer…
Gray-eyes ran toward the bus stop, dodging dog walkers and twisting around women pulling wire shopping carts. So much steam billowed from a hot dog vendor’s cart that for a minute, Jed could no longer see him. A flood of sorrow washed over him, too tangible, too bitter to be the result of losing sight of a man he’d seen for a matter of seconds.
The bus came to a groaning, juddering stop and Jed stepped off. He stood waiting for a minute, hands anxiously repositioning his messenger bag at his side.
The girl with the earbuds got off after him. She bumped into him, dropping a stack books. He couldn’t stop himself from helping her pick them up, even though it meant taking his eyes off the sidewalk. He glanced awkwardly the way they’d come…peering around her to see…nothing.
He could still her her music, even on the busy street, even as the bus roared off. He almost warned her to turn it down — almost told her listening to it loud like that could contribute to hearing loss, but once she had her books she’d marched off down the street.
He imagined he could hear the song, long after she left.
One step closer…
Jed tried not to be obvious but his gaze swept the street again, past the hot dog cart, past the bodega where he’d probably get some ramen before returning home alone.
After a minute, common sense prevailed. Jed made up his mind to skip the store and simply retreat into the mute chill of his empty walk-up — into framed black and white photographs cut from magazines and brick-and-board book cases full of mystery novels and the futon from college.
He turned and ran smack into a solid wall of muscle with gray eyes.
“Hey.” A smile like the brightness of a thousands suns lit up the area around them. “I saw you on the bus, looking at me. Do we know each other?”
“I don’t think so.” Jed shook his head, couldn’t stop shaking it. No, no, no. This doesn’t happen to me.
“Shouldn’t we?” Teeth clamped on the man’s full, soft lower lip, suddenly doubtful, when their owner had chased a bus over half a mile because of a single glance. “Do you think we should get to know each other before you look at me like that?”
Jed’s head bobbed, yes. Kept bobbing. “I think so. Yes.”
A thousand tiny bubbles tickled Jed’s heart with a sensation so old and unfamiliar, it took him a while to realize what it was…
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all — Emily Dickinson