he polished tips of his boots were the first she saw of him. She had ducked behind the counter and hadn’t heard the door open. He found her on both knees searching for something on a lower shelf. Later, he would always say he could tell by the way her curls fell across the top of her head that she would have a great smile.
“Hello?” He spoke with a lifted and curious tone. He accented his words in a manner she would always say made her certain that his eyes would sparkle.
She rose slowly, taking every second to straighten her skirt and lick her lips in the subtlest way. She hoped her eyebrows were laying flat. She had a habit of ruffling them when she was bored or nervous.
She would always tell people that when their eyes met a wave of kinetic energy pulsed through the store. She swears the lamps flickered, but maybe in a city as big and glittering as New York you wouldn’t notice.
The air changed, that’s for sure. There was suddenly less of it. She remembers finding it difficult to breath, and yet her self-preservation instincts failed her miserably. Words and the little breath she had left tumbled out of her mouth.
“Hi. Sorry! I… I was just getting something. Can I help you?”
He didn’t seem affected by the loss of oxygen. “I need a few bottles of wine for dinner. What do you suggest?”
He spoke slowly with no hint of panic in his voice. She wondered if maybe he was some sort of mystical hybrid creature. She had a habit of falling for those. Men with supernatural powers, the kind that could breath without air or could scatter particles of light around a room with their smiles. The kind of men who often evaporated so fully from your life that their having existed seemed more like a dream than anything you could prove.
Her coworker still tells everyone about how he watched her suddenly shed 20 years. Did security cameras catch the fumbling 15-year-old girl as she shifted from one leg to the other, tugging at her hem and pouring a shaky and way too tall glass of Malbec for the handsome customer? Could they lose their license for something like that?
“Oh, Malbec! Argentina, yes?” The handsome customer took a sip. “I’m going there in May to visit my brother.”
So he wasn’t magic. He was Latin, which would explain his easy smile his willingness to chat. On top of that, she’d just been to Argentina. Was this even real? He was looking right at her and delivering the most impeccable script. She would tell everyone later that this must be how people on candid camera shows feel.
“Yes! Argentina. I just returned from there. Where does he live? Buenos Aires?” She flipped her R a little. She wasn’t fooling anyone with her midwestern accent, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
“He lives in Buenos Aires. Yes. Did you like it there?” He would probably tell you he was just asking a simple question. No one could predict what would happen next.
“I loved it! I loved everything about it. Yes. Everything. The weather was perfect, jasmine was blooming still, even though it’s summer there, and very hot…”
She paused. Of course he knew it was summer there. Her cheeks burned. She felt for the ground beneath her feet and realized only her left leg was planted. The other was bent at the knee. She slid her foot slowly up and down along the edge of her right calf.
“…. And I even took a tango lesson.” Her voice unfurled.
“You did? I’ve been looking for a school here in the city. I want to learn before I go in May. I’ve been trying to get in with this one place-“
He reached in his pocket for a slip of paper.
Before she could fully form the words he said them. “There’s a school. In Chelsea.”
That’s when the floor dropped out.
“Come with me sometime! I mean, if you want. I… I could introduce you!
I would love that.”
She scribbled her number on a slip pf paper. He paid for two bottles of wine and waved goodbye.
Air returned to her lungs. She slid her left leg out to the side and pulled it back again. She turned on one heel to face her coworker.
“Did you see that?”
“Put on some music.”