Levels

by Charles Pisano

 

As I walked closer towards the figure in the mist, I saw that it was a young woman staring up into the streetlight through the fog. My footsteps seemed to snap her out of her reverie, and she glanced at me anxiously before looking down at her phone. I gave her a sidelong glance, half-checking her out and half-sizing her up. Whenever I come across someone staring up at a light like that, they’re usually either crying or on drugs, but it didn’t look like she was doing either. She waited until I was ten feet past her, then started walking in the same direction. After a couple minutes I reached my bus stop and sat down on a bench.

I wasn’t really surprised when she ended up stopping at same bus stop as I did. Honestly, I knew she was going to ever since I’d seen her materialize through the mist. Maybe it was that premonition that made me feel like a creep, even though I was the first one to stop to begin with.

As she sat down on the other end of the bench, I looked at her out of the corner of my eye. She was attractive, something that I had noticed instantly. Her brown hair had started to curl slightly because of the humidity, and she seemed exhausted, but her ability to look good despite all that added to her appeal rather than detracting from it. As she took out a book from her purse, she shifted slightly towards me to catch the light from the streetlamp behind her. I couldn’t help but look at the title of her book as she started to read. It was City of Glass by Paul Auster, something I had read in college. One of those postmodern books that are seemingly meaningless.

“I like that book.” I startled myself by saying it, and she looked up at me.

“Yeah? I think it’s good so far.” She put it down so that it was forked open on her leg.

“I like the levels of it. I love it when literature plays with itself like that in a self-conscious way.” I knew I blew it there. Literature? Who talks like that outside a classroom − only me, and that’s not good.

“Yeah! That’s my favorite part about it so far, and judging by what you say it’ll just get better.” She flashed me a smile. My bus turned onto the street.

“I’m sorry if this is quick, but do you think I could get your number?” I held my phone out to her, and she held her smile.

I snapped out of my day dream as a bus pulled up. Not mine, but clearly hers as she put her book in her purse. I decided asking for her number would be too random here. I stuck my hands in my pockets and fished for something, as she got on her bus and it disappeared past the lamp and into the mist.

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