Of course she knows that this is my favourite spot in the city, and that I come here when I'm bored and lonely. She always knows. Either we are the exact same person, or she has a fix on my GPS phone, because she always finds me. In July she tracked down my second favourite bookstore and found me there on a Wednesday, when I skipped class for the first time. She was sitting there, cool as ever, reading Ten Ways to Make Friends - Tips For the Socially Incompetent and sipping iced tea. Which is funny, because she looks like a supermodel (especially with that glass of iced tea) and shoots like a goddess, so you'd think she'd be good with people. Or, you know, not.
Not that I know her well or anything. I've only seen her sometimes because she takes my dad's photography class, and I help out on Tuesdays for some extra cash, cleaning and packing. She has the best eye in the class, I reckon. Not that I'm much of a photographer myself, but I love the way she loves her work, the way I know she would do it all the time if she could.
Sometimes I swear she throws this city into light.
Anyway, she's already halfway across the roof, moving steadily towards me on an inexorable path. Don't move off the wall, stay cool, say something! I look over her shoulder and utter my first words in her presence at a passing pigeon.
"What are you doing here?"
Okay, so that came out harsher than I intended. Her camera jangles against her necklace as she walks closer. I imagine she's squinting at me behind those tinted lenses. She doesn't smile, doesn't look like she's noticed me at all. Instead, she pulls up the camera and fires off a test shot, tilts her head critically and nods to some internal rhythm. She is so relaxed, so in control, impossibly so, and it makes me feel excluded and unnecessary. Suddenly she looks up and beams brightly, making me gulp.
This is getting ridiculous. I never had trouble with girls before I met her; now I'm stuttering over a girl I've never even heard speak.
Wait, actually I have heard her speak. December 22, 7:02 pm: it was snowing outside and she had a red and white striped beanie on her head, all candy cane goodness. Her phone rang as she walked out the door, and although I was supposed to be sweeping, I was able to, just briefly, catch her saying "Oh, hey there!". I've listened to her repeat those words in a variety of imaginary situations - fortuitously getting on the same bus, perhaps, or meeting by chance in some kitsch little coffee place - so many times that the phrase has itself become almost imaginary to me.
So when she chooses this moment to say it, right here to my face, I nearly fall backwards off the wall. I pretend that I'm just leaning back more, lounging casually against the city backdrop, instead of being startled by her voice.
"Oh, hey there!"
Her mouth exaggerates the "O", her lip gloss shimmers briefly; then she's back to the dazzling smile as if nothing has changed. Something has to have changed, doesn't she feel it? Is this what conversation with her is like? Will I never have anything to say? Wait, I haven't replied yet, right -
"Yeah. I mean, lovely to see you."
Wow, the schmooze is automatic. On some level I am reacting by memory, remembering how I used to talk up girls before I met her. Any minute now I'll wonder aloud whether it's time to go for lunch, and ask if she'd be so kind as to accompany me so that my mother won't worry that I'm in the city alone, you know how mothers are. But somehow I know that this girl is different. She won't care how mothers are, she isn't afraid of anything, and she wouldn't eat lunch. No, she seems more like a brunch kind of girl. Or maybe she keeps snacks in her bag; cheese and crackers, or foie gras, or apples, or all of the above.
On another level this is completely unreal. I've thought about how to approach her before. Maybe she'd come back after class to retrieve something from the stores, and our hands would touch. Maybe I'd be her shining knight and save her from something, not sure what. To see her here, with me, in this place...it's unbelievable.
It's probably been too long since I last spoke aloud , but she's fine on her own. I love that she's so self-sufficient, that she doesn't need me. Which doesn't make sense, but it's true. Anyway, she's walking along the wall, taking her photos and leaving me to contemplate by myself. I keep my eyes on the pigeon waddling around on the roof, watching its indignant squawk and wing-flap when the first drop of rain hits.
A light smattering turns into a sustained shower, and soon I'm looking towards the only shelter on the roof and calculating distances. I start walking away from the wall, but then I see her leaning over it, wind whipping her hair across her face. Her expression is rapturous, but I'm worried she's going to either fall off or freeze to death. I pause, wanting to remember the look of wondrous joy and affinity to the city in all its impulsiveness. She leans further as if to touch the sky. I freak out.
So I grab her arm gently and tug, pulling the two of us across the roof and under the shelter. Her eyebrows are raised, her hair is lightly sprayed with water droplets and she clutches her camera and her canvas bag close to her body.
Then she speaks suddenly, her words marked by a clap of distant thunder and a tragic undertone.
"A greater power than we can contradict hath thwarted our intents."
Our intents? What are our intents? We have intent? Well, mine is innocent enough, I think. I want to be able to see her smile without having to wait on coincidence, or photography class. I want to be able to look at her, not from a distance, but from up close. I want to be able to say, "You know that girl? She's mine."
The thought makes me want to smile, and I have to school my features into a more sombre, appropriate look, staring through the steadily dripping sky. I suppose she takes it for confusion, because she adds a qualifier to her declaration.
She quotes Shakespeare. It should be pretentious, but it's not - rather, I find it amusing and attractive that she can take use centuries of literary tradition quite casually, but never flippantly. Her words are completely appropriate to the situation, whatever her intents actually are.
I hope they aren't just to take photos and leave. I hope I'm in her intents somewhere. I don't necessarily have to be the salient feature, but I'd be glad just to sit by the side and watch her thoughts play out. After all, she's always in my mind, dancing under archways, or just pacing by a bus stop, camera always in hand. But just as I am fully considering the image of her walking around in my head (and I smile at its absurdity), the living breathing girl of my affections suddenly walks away. No goodbye, just a flap of hair and the clack of camera against necklace as she descends the back stairs in the slowing rain.
Strangely, I am left feeling content. Not sad, or disappointed, but happy in a way only associated with having seen the object of one's dreaming - having touched it and heard it, even if I haven't been able to grasp it in full. After all, if a higher power than I can contradict has brought us into contact, it may do so again. Next time I'll get her number.
As for today, well, we passed two milestones didn't we? We spoke. We touched.
It's a start.