Wendy, the presence
Wendy sang folk songs in the Graybar Passage of Grand Central Terminal, her falsetto voice a rich and wandering echo to my early mornings. I don’t recall how I ever learned her name since we didn’t speak to one another. Instead I’d scuttle past her quickly, always on the verge of missing one train or another to Greenwich, CT.
Up in Greenwich I managed a multi-billion dollar hedge fund with a couple of associates whom I met while working as a wine merchant in Lisbon. They were the kind of guys who at one point in time probably tried to bottle and sell their own scent – cocksure Ivy League degenerates with gobs of cash and a grip of contacts. Their bad haircuts and sloppy tans, along with their Brooks Brothers get ups, complimented their utter lack of charisma. This hadn’t been the life that I wanted but it was the one I was leading.
I never heard one of Wendy’s songs from start to finish. Regardless, I found both her music and her constant presence each morning to be one of those small and perfect pleasures so often overlooked until the day they’re no longer around to appreciate. Every now and then I’d steal a glimpse of her wild and radiant hair out of the corner of my eye – hair that seemed to flow like molten lava over her shoulders and down her back. Boarding the train I’d often wondered what it would be like to run my fingers through it.
I made money hand over fist with my business partners, so I was able to overlook their demerits, as well as their frequent offenses to common decency. I purchased some elegant digs on Park Avenue with my cut of the spoils. I started spending the majority of my free time eating overpriced meals with people I didn’t like and tending to a stable of callous gold diggers and mercenary bimbos. On weekends I’d take my schooner out on the Long Island Sound and drink Tanqueray by myself until I couldn’t stand up straight. It was the only thing I knew how to do right. I was dejected and emotionally bankrupt. I knew it too, but was too rich really care.
Months went by and I continued to see Wendy in the Graybar Passage each morning. At some point during this time she had become the one thing that I’d look forward to in the day. Taking a look around me I became certain that I was not the only one who felt this way. Had there been a reason for me to stop and say something to her I would have done so in a heartbeat. But I thought better of it and decided instead not to meddle with the gentle balance that we had struck between us, a quiet compromise. I’d keep walking and she’d keep singing. Indefinitely. For whether Wendy ever knew it or not, she had formed an unspoken communion between herself and the shapeless mass of unhappy lives who herd themselves, like cattle, through the ornate and inconceivable maze of platforms and old magazines.
No matter how hard I try I will never forget the morning I passed Wendy for the last time in Grand Central and seeing that all of her hair was gone, her head now wan and wrapped in a brightly colored scarf. The sudden change caused me to stop dead in my tracks right in front of her. I was overcome with an ineffable sadness. At that moment I needed to hear her song more than anything else. But by then it was too late. Though I watched her hands and mouth move for what felt like days, the music was gone.
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