A Sketch: Midtown, Two Corners
From the canopied doorway of Wollensky’s, he entered the April evening. It was just warm enough to leave his topcoat at home, and so he wore a navy three-piece suit, unmistakably bespoke, with lapels unlike any other—neither notch, nor peak—possessing an un-American elegance.
His face was dark and long and lined, with brown eyes set above plump bags of flesh that made one think of oyster meat. Altogether, it was the face of an inventor, of a shipping magnate.
A cab turned up Third, and the man raised the index and middle fingers of his right hand—a composed, minimal effort, no different than if gesturing for a check or bidding at auction.
The cab passed without slowing.
The man said nothing, showed no frustration. His lipless mouth remained in a simple straight line, like a wrinkle. He stood another minute, two, silent and stoic and aware. His manner called to mind the word comportment.
Another car approached, and the man made the same gesture—two fingers raised no higher than his shoulders, like a starting pistol before a race. Again, the car passed him, its lights illuminating the gilded pattern of his pocket square—curved and ornamental, resembling filigree.
One block east and four north, a younger man—a boy, really, just one year out of college—fought his way back into a sweater as he stepped from a bar toward the street, the insistence of music halving as the door closed behind him. He drifted into traffic, waving both hands as if a man lost at sea.
A girl exited after him: thin, heels so high she walked as if descending stairs. Despite the hazards of city sidewalks, she remained fixated on her phone, following it like a compass.
—Hold on, she said. I want to make sure Jill’s all right with that guy.
—Come on, the boy said. I got one.
The girl seemed not to hear him.
—She was fine, the boy said, the moment he told her he worked at Goldman.
He was seated in the back of the car by that point.
—Don’t talk about her like that.
—This guy’s waiting, he said.
—She’s my best friend.
—Then you should know her by now.
—Go without me, the girl said.
—In an hour, she’ll be at his place, with her mouth around his wallet.
The girl said nothing.
—Fine, the boy said, closing the door. Thirty-third and Third, he told the driver.
The car lingered and then pulled away as the girl stood there, almost in awe of her anger, collecting the moment like a currency she would use in a later conversation about bad nights with bad men.
She dialed her phone and held it to her ear. It rang and rang, but her friend—no more than thirty feet away—did not answer. The girl remained on the corner, trapped in that brief moment when she was no one’s priority.
The boy was dropped at the door of his high rise and paid ten dollars on a fare of eight. Then the cab turned up Third, where the old man remained, stranded, refusing to do more than raise his fingers as the empty cabs passed him by.