She’s lucky, that woman, to have been loved this hard.
I spend the better part of the afternoon that follows getting lost in those words one last time. And when it’s over, I compose myself, lace up my sneakers, and go for a walk, journal in hand, headed toward Lexington Avenue.
It was this one. I’m sure of it.
942 Lexington Avenue.
I recognize the Texas limestone façade and the black awning above the steps with the slight tear at one corner.
The breeze rustles the leafy trees that line the sidewalk, and up ahead a woman dressed in a white pantsuit walks a fluffy Pomeranian as she gabs on her phone. A bicycle messenger flies through the streets, darting between parked cabs, and up ahead a garbage truck makes its way through the neighborhood.
In many ways, it’s just an ordinary Monday with people going about their business, minding their own, doing their thing. With my fingers clutched around the leather notebook, I find myself suddenly self-conscious. If someone were to see me walk past this townhome, deposit a book on the steps, and keep going like it’s no big deal, they’d probably think I’m some crazy lady who wandered over here from Crazytown.
But I have to do it.
I don’t have a choice.
The windows of the townhome are dark, contrasting against the pale stone of the building’s front. Stopping at the base of the steps, I inhale sharply and find myself fixating on the black front door before me.
Behind that door, quite possibly, lies the owner of this book.
The writer of these words.
The unintentional breaker of my heart.
A whole other world exists on the other side of that door.
One with a man who loved a woman so fiercely it consumed him.
It broke him.
It ruined him for anyone else.
Saying a silent goodbye, I bend at the knees and leave the book on the bottom step. It won’t be missed there. The owner of this townhome will definitely see it. Rising, I shove my hands in the pockets of my gray sweats and turn toward Central Park because I’m in desperate need of a head-clearing jog today.
“Hey.” A man’s voice booms from somewhere behind me. “Hey, you.”
I nonchalantly angle my head, peering from the corner of my eyes to see who’s yelling at whom. It’s a constant occurrence in this city. People are always yelling at each other for this reason or that. Most of the time I tune it out because it’s never directed toward me, but when I find myself locked in the gaze of a tall, broad-shouldered man with dark hair and a thick, dark beard covering half his face, I stop in my tracks.
“Lady,” he calls out.
It doesn’t register right away that he’s trying to grab my attention. It takes a moment. All I see are thick muscled shoulders wrapped in one of those baseball t-shirts, the kind that are white with navy sleeves that go three-fourths of the way down. The top of his hair is cut long and brushed straight back, filled with some kind of product that gives it an eternal state of shiny wetness, and the hair on the sides of his head is trimmed short. Despite the fact that his face is half-covered by facial hair, I can tell from here that his jawline is strong. The man’s brows are dark and angled in as he stares me down with a gaze so intense I can’t think straight.
“Me?” I mouth, finger pointed at my chest.
He nods, taking long strides in my direction. The man stops at the bottom of the stairs, swooping down to grab the notebook before continuing toward me with determined strides.
I follow his every move, noting the way his posture stays rigid as he walks, the way his eyes never stop squinting at me, and the way his lips hold a straight line. He directs the book toward me, all but shoving it at me.
“I don’t want this,” he says. “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t want it. Don’t leave shit at my door.”
If this is the man, he clearly didn’t get the girl because if he did, he wouldn’t look so inherently angry.
“I found this outside your place last week,” I say, keeping my tone delicate as my heart breaks for the man who quite possibly never had his happily ever after. “It was raining, and it was getting wet. I didn’t want it to get ruined. Meant to bring it back sooner, but I’m never on this side of town.”
The man is still holding the book toward me, but now he glances down, brows pointed in as he studies it.
“I’ve never seen this before in my life,” he says.
My shoulders deflate, and I hesitate before reaching to accept the notebook. “Do you have any idea who it might belong to? I found it right outside your place, lying in the mulch by the bushes, like it had fallen off your steps . . .”
He gives me an incredulous glare, his lips twisting into an unpleasant smile. “Seriously? You actually expect me to believe all this?”
I tuck my chin, wincing. “I don’t understand what you’re getting at.”
“Do you know how many people walk past here leaving crazy shit on my doorstep? Shit they want me to sign, naked pics, letters with phone numbers . . .”
I release a soft, uneasy laugh. “I’m sorry. I’m so confused.”
“I don’t give autographs,” he says. “Not anymore. You’ll have to check eBay.”
“I don’t want your autograph,” I say, purposely leaving out the part where I tell him I have abso-freaking-lutely no clue who he is.
“Then what is this? Because it looks like one of those stupid little autograph books to me.” He pulls the notebook closer, fanning the pages and sighing. “Jesus, what is this? Your diary? Look, I’m flattered, but I have no desire to read about your little fantasies. Maybe you think you’re in love with me, I don’t know, but all the shit you’ve written in here? Not going to happen.”