It was sometime after 9PM when Esther’s sister Sara returned from the Carlebach shul, flushed and energized. She turned out to be more engaging than Esther, asking Sharon about every detail of her life before expressing her advice. “How many siblings do you have?” she would ask. “I see. So then you should definitely…”
Until after 11 they were still chatting, each of them wired for one reason or another: Sharon from waking up at 3 in the afternoon, Esther having been in bed for two days and Sara’s first Shabbat away from her husband since their wedding nine months before. When Esther went to make everyone tea and Sara went to the bathroom, Sharon lay down on the couch and noted how surprisingly tired she actually felt . .
She woke up in the morning to find both sisters still sleeping, and the house miraculously set back to its immaculate state as it was when Shabbat came in. With no particular reason to go home, Sharon ended up staying through the afternoon, having to almost beg them to let her go. When she reached the streets, she basked in the sunlight, fighting an urge to just go to the park and continue her revelry. She had successfully pushed both Andy and Joe from her mind for almost a whole day, enjoying a welcome bout of girl time. She hoped that it would continue with a quiet seudat shlishit with Tamar, who she hoped hadn’t gotten frantic when Sharon had disappeared for nearly twenty hours.
She waved to the Jamaican doorman as she pushed open the door to her building. As she walked to the stairwell on the far side of the lobby, from the corner of her eye she noticed a figure jumping up from the armchair on the side and approaching her. She turned to see that it was Andy, straightening his suit pants. He stopped just a few feet from her, close enough for her to see the tired look in his eyes.
“Where are you coming from?” she asked.
“I should ask you the same,” he said, stretching his shoulders. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Where, on the armchair?” He nodded, still stretching. “For how long?”
He furrowed his brow and looked out the front windows. “I came up after davening last night, but Tamar said you were by Esther. I then knocked at Esther’s after my meal but nobody answered.”
“When was that?”
He shrugged. “11:30?”
Sharon pouted. “I don’t know. I passed out sometime; I don’t remember when. You haven’t been waiting here all afternoon, right?”
“No, I ate at home.”
“So when did you come back?”
“Not long ago,” he said, unconvincingly.
Sharon rested her hands on her hips. “Well that’s nice of you. To what honor do I owe this vigil?”
“Vigil?” he repeated. “I just…we haven’t spoken since the other night.”
“Yeah, it’s been a crazy few days.”
“Is everything…can we sit down?”
“Here?” she asked. Andy shrugged, as if he didn’t have any other ideas. “No, let’s go for a walk,” she suggested.
They left the lobby and turned south upon Andy’s cue, in what Sharon figured was the direction of his building. For half-a-minute or so they walked slowly and silently, listening to the background noises of the city in constant motion. Sharon glanced in his direction and surmised from the way he was scratching around his mouth that he was gathering his words.
“I was worried,” he eventually said. “You were acting a bit strange after the fireworks.”
She had suspected that he would want to clarify what made her act so strange but was disappointed by his choice of words. While she was pretty sure that he had held her from behind during the fireworks, they hadn’t spoken about it. Instead of approaching the subject openly, though, he had taken a more cowardly path, dropping on her the burden of introducing the issue. She didn’t fault him for it, but she wasn’t necessarily going to make things easy for him. “What do you mean?” she asked innocently.
He began to speak but quickly closed his mouth. “I don’t know,” he tried again, but again paused. “I mean, you were kind of silent on the way home.”
“I was tired,” she explained. “It had been a long day and that packed subway…”
“Oh.” He was silent for a while, breathing deeply and audibly. “It wasn’t because of what happened during the fireworks?”
She continued to feign ignorance, hoping that he would choose to take responsibility for broaching the subject. “What do you mean?” she asked again.
“About when, you know, the crowd got a bit…close?”
He elongated the pause before the last word a bit too long. Now she was in a pickle, because his question wasn’t vague enough to be referring just to the crowd crunch but was most certainly about him lingering behind her. She didn’t appreciate having to guess what he was referring to, but on the other hand she felt that perhaps he was repentant and didn’t want to lower the conversation with explicit mention of his deed. Nonetheless, he was trying to keep himself on the defensive, which Sharon didn’t feel was fair. If he was going to make a move, he should continue through with it.
“How did you feel about it?” she asked. Now ‘it’ was out in the open, and the ball was in his court. She inwardly congratulated herself.
“I’m more interested in how you felt about it,” he said, standing awkwardly straight and looking southward down West End Avenue. “I don’t know what it meant to you, so I was hoping that…” He laughed coarsely, probably trying to minimize the level of seriousness after realizing the weight of what he had admitted to. “I couldn’t really sense your reaction afterwards…so….”
Then she turned and pivoted, which caused Andy to stop and Sharon looked up at his dark and pleading eyes. She no longer felt any romance towards him, this whole interrogation feeling childish and silly. Why couldn’t they talk about what happened like adults? But wait, would that be any better? Wouldn’t that also ruin the romance? Her thoughts reminded her of how Joey would think, and that made her feel like speaking to him before making any decisions.
“You’re sweet,” she reassured Andy. “I can’t say that I haven’t thought about it, but I really don’t know what to say. Can you give me a little more time?”
“Sure,” he said immediately, if not reluctantly. “No problem.”
Andy walked into the crosswalk and froze a few feet later when he realized that Sharon wasn’t joining him, prompting a loud honk from a turning SUV.
“I’m going back to my building.” she declared. “I’m pretty tired and want to rest.”
“I’ll walk you.”
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