He heard a loud tire screech. There was a moment of silence and then some shouting. Startled, he ran to the balcony edge and peered down below. It was hard to see, but a yellow cab had stopped at a right angle, it’s front facing his hotel. People were looking down near the tire of the taxi and some were screaming. Several people ran out into the street to stop traffic. All of the cars came to a halt, with a few trying to back up Seventh Avenue.
The man entered his hotel room, grabbed his room card and ran to the elevator. He waited for what felt like eons. As he stood, he watched the lights above the elevator blink and stop on different floors. He kept pushing the down arrow, hoping it would make it move faster. Finally, it made it up to 16. He was dripping water from the melting snow on his head and his suit was wet, yet he felt warm. His pulse was racing.
The interior of the elevator was covered in mirrors. He faced himself from the front, left and right. He thought the expert tailoring of his suit was ironic considering how his face looked, red and whipped from the snow and wind. After a few peripheral glances, he decided to look up at the ceiling. The elevator stopped at the eleventh floor. A couple entered. The woman was wearing a black skirt and a raccoon fur. The man was wearing khakis and a pea coat. They looked at him, soaking wet and he moved to the back against the wall. They exchanged awkward smiles. The man looked down at his shoes and then straight ahead. The couple stood silently. The woman caught a glance of the man in the mirror and then held her companion’s hand. The man placed his hands on the glass behind him. He felt claustrophobic and trapped, wishing he were alone on the ride down to the lobby.
The couple stepped off of the elevator slowly. He ran past them and dashed to the revolving doors. The lobby was packed with people. He touched a few on the side as he ran past them. In a blur, he saw the bellhop who gave him a nod. He did not return it. His mind was only focused on the street scene outside. As he neared the door, he could make out faces from outside. One woman cupped her mouth and turned her head away. There were several others awkwardly standing around looking down, then they shifted their gazes to their left and right. He couldn’t make out what they were saying. He could see eyes filled with sadness and terror.
He circled his way through the door and the sounds from the street were deafening. There were hundreds of people stopped on the sidewalk. Policemen were attaching yellow tape to poles, effectively stopping traffic from entering Seventh Avenue below 34th street. A Middle-Eastern man was sitting in the wet snow against a bus stop crying, his hands wrapped around his face. People were pointing up and then to the street. He listened to the conversations around him.
“Money was dropping, man. I mean, fucking twenties. Just, dropping.”
“Nah, for real.”
“The poor girl.”
“Nothin’ comes for free, dawg. Nothin’.”
“Stand back! Stand back! Stand back!”
“The Knicks fuckin’ lose, then this shit? I don’t wanna get a beer anymore. Let’s just get on the train.”
He saw her. There was a pool of blood around her head. The puddle saturated the white frosting of snow. She was young. Her body lay crumpled in front of the taxi. The driver side door was left open, as were the back doors. A policeman stood in front of her, trying to shield the girl from gawkers. Another officer asked people to disperse. He heard more sirens in the distance. He stared at her for as long as could while throngs of men, women, children and policemen slid past him.
The red stream continued to ooze onto the avenue, melting the snow and then resting upon the black asphalt. He was motionless and in shock. The right side of the girl’s head looked slightly crumpled and her left eye was open, looking up at the sky. It did not move as snow dropped onto her pupil. An ambulance arrived. The medical technicians pulled her motionless body away from the taxi. They placed an oxygen mask over mouth and began to perform CPR. They repeated the thrusts several times, with arms heaving up and down. Her body pressed deep into the street with each new compression. There was no other movement. No sign of life.
As he stared at the scene, he began to feel nauseous. He looked around and saw others. Some were in shock, others looked down while waking at a rushed pace to avoid the situation altogether. A police officer approached the cab driver still on the ground with tears streaming out of his eyes. Another policeman brought him a glass of water and placed his hand on his shoulder. He shuddered at the touch, then accepted it.
His eyes returned to the girl. The oxygen mask had been removed from her face. Another EMT came and placed a sheet over her body. The man could not bear to look any longer. He stumbled towards the front window-pane of the hotel lobby window and leaned against it. He took deep breaths, yet found it hard to breathe. Each inhalation was painful and he felt as if little air were reaching his lungs. The air felt cold and stung the inside of his mouth. He crouched down to the ground and could feel himself stumble a little. His hand braced his weight and landed on cold snow. A few people looked down at him and asked if he were alright. One woman commented that she thought he must be the girl’s father. She called him a poor man.
More officers arrived and began to clear the sidewalks of onlookers. One officer stopped in front of the man and helped him up. He couldn’t understand what the policeman was saying. The sounds around him began to fade into static. They became murmurs and gurgles. The sirens transformed into whistles, while he could hear every crunch of snow trampled under foot by the masses streaming away from the accident. The man nodded to the officer and took a final look as he turned around. More yellow tape surrounded lampposts. Several officers were on horseback and many of the onlookers began to walk away. He continued on through the revolving doors and entered the warmth of the lobby.
Everyone seemed to be moving slowly. He felt hot. As he made his way to the elevator banks, he thought people from the bar were looking at him. The bellhop gave him another salute from the top of his hat and down to his chest. The man nodded as he walked past him without recognizing he had done so. He reached the elevator banks and was grateful to find one at the lobby. He entered it and pushed the 16 and the door close buttons at the same time.
Alone, he covered his eyes to avoid looking at himself in the mirrors. The elevator inched up the building and he managed to remove his index and middle finger from his eyes after it climbed several flights. His eyes were red and he focused solely on them in the reflection. He stared at the ground, unable to look at himself any longer. He glanced up at the numbers above the door. He was at 14. He heard the noise indicating the fifteenth floor had been passed. The elevator stopped at the sixteenth floor, but the doors paused for a moment before opening. He put his hands down by his legs and looked at the hollow face peering back at him and gasped. The doors opened.
The room was how he had left it and he thought it looked ridiculous. He picked up his wallet from the bed and looked at each photograph once more before returning them to their place. He took one of the oranges next. The man removed the peel and ate one slice of the orange before throwing it away. He put the second one back in the fruit basket on the dresser. The closet door was still open and he ran to it to get his valise and suit rack. He placed the black suit onto a hanger and zipped it up. A pile of business cards lay fanned across the bed, scattered by the removal of the suit. He picked them up and placed them in a pile on the nightstand. The man took them one by one and tore them in two. They were then placed into the trashcan.
The bed was clear of his belongings. He sat on the comforter and looked around the room. The curtain was still in a pile a yard in front of the door. He picked it up and placed it on top of the rod it had hung upon. He returned to the bed and stared at the carpet. His hair was wet with a mixture of melted snow and sweat. He cupped his hands together in front of him and began to twirl his wedding ring around his finger. His knees jumped up and down and he extended his arm to reach for the phone. The cradle sat in his hand. The plastic clicked against the metal on his left index finger. His fingers dialed numbers and the line began to ring. A woman’s voice said hello from the earpiece.
“I need to come home,” he said.