The Long Way Around
Geralt rode the train towards the city. The car was crowded with people on their way to work and he was forced to stand, holding tightly to the dirty plastic loop that hung down from the roof. As the train moved forward and to lurched to the right, Geralt lost his balance and pressed into the woman standing next to him. She exhaled in frustration and her breath reeked of stale cigars and garlic.
The smell reminded him of too many nights alone with Lani. Geralt inhaled deeply, finding himself repulsed, but lost in memory. Lani’s father loved cigars. He smoked them in quick succession while seated in his orange leather chair. Her mother cooked everything with large amounts of garlic, often marinating meats for days in minced cloves before cooking them. The house absorbed and clung to the two odors, melting them together into a singular entity which permeated every corner of each room. Lani was his first love. She was just 17. He imagined her face, her pale blue eyes and olive skin. He adored her too thin eyebrows that he couldn’t keep from touching. She loved listening to music in the dark while sitting on the floor of her bedroom, and would pull him down beside her, pressing her forehead into his. She would whisper sing the songs. She was only a memory now. He had not thought of her in years.
He suddenly had no desire to meet Harriet and Priscilla for breakfast. He pulled his phone from his shirt pocket, being careful not to elbow anyone in the face. With surprising skill, he one-finger-texted Harriet his regrets. She would understand. Besides, it would giver her a chance to hit on Priscilla over a cup of coffee and a Danish. She would thank him later, he was certain. He exited the train at the next stop.
Geralt had no destination in mind. He wanted to walk with his memories a bit more. The sun hung low in the eastern sky, a heavy reminder that it was still winter and that the difference between morning and mid-day was minuscule. He wrapped his scarf around his neck, zipped his coat up tight, and headed towards the small park he knew was a few blocks to the west. He wished he had a cigarette, but was instantly grateful he had quit.
A woman passed by him. She wore a long coat and mittens. A green knit hat was pulled tightly around her ears. She could be Lani’s age. She might even be the right height and weight. He decided to follow her, allowing himself to pretend he had miraculously exited the train at the perfect place and time, and thinking of Lani, had instantly come across her. It was a powerful game. As she walked ahead of him, Geralt began a conversation with her in his head. He confessed his undying affection. She melted in adoration. He couldn’t help himself. He quickened his pace.