Who Needs Luck?

She sat still and watched him from across the street. She had seen him many nights before, pacing, as he was now, back and forth, tensely, yet somehow fully at ease. Her lights were out and he couldn’t see her, so it seemed perfectly natural to her to be looking at him so late in the night, eighty floors above the city.

No other windows were lit, only his—-a solid rectangle of sunlight in which a man lived, breathed and worked when everyone else had gone home for the day. She liked the confident, relaxed assertiveness of his movements, and she felt a slight breathless thrill when he suddenly and quickly sat down at his desk, picked up a pen and wrote, sometimes for half an hour or more. He was her own silent movie, with no captions, no sounds, no background music. Was he a hero? Or perhaps a villain, cooking the company books? Was he working so late because he had to, or because he wanted to? She often wished she could see that paper and those words, his thoughts. But then she would think that it might all be ruined, that it might turn out to be something totally uninteresting, and that this supposed drama pertained more to her imagination, growing out of her loneliness and her need. She pushed the thought away and watched him.

Suddenly, something that hadn’t happened in the previous two weeks of her having discovered him, happened. The dark rectangle to his right blossomed with light, and in its center stood a beautiful woman.

She was surprised to be stricken with dismay. She knew what it meant—-that she had been regarding him as her own personal possession. And she knew that she couldn’t bear it if she should see them in the same room together. She wanted that woman out of there and for that light to go out. As she thought this she knew how fully she had wanted to meet him, to climb down from her tower of fantasy and to take a chance on a real adventure. It was safe here, but was it safety she really wanted? Too many disappointments in the past had taken hold of her mind, wrapping her once youthful optimism in a cold, too calm, aloofness.

Then he stood up from his desk, turned, walked to his door, and a rectangle was black. She looked at the beautiful woman sitting alone at her desk (Yes, still alone!) and waited for the inevitable. Ten seconds went by. Her mind shouted, “Fool! Why are you waiting?!” She leaped up in the dark and ran out of her apartment, ran down the hallway, pushed the elevator button, flew down to the lobby and out into the wintry street. She wasn’t wearing a coat and didn’t care.

He had just stepped out on to the sidewalk when he looked up and saw the most beautifully determined face he had ever seen. Dark eyes; intense, unsmiling lips; her whole face and body walking, springing straight toward him, calmly passionate, lightly dressed, yet strangely reminding him of a match just struck. When she stopped, three feet away, with her eyes alternately softening and blazing as she looked up at him, he said, in a low, taut voice, “I believe this is my lucky day”. Her responding laughter was pure joyous release; then, half-controlling herself, she almost shouted, “You were never more wrong in your life!”

The next night a lone late walker, looking high up over his head, happened to see a light flash on, then off, then on, and across from it another light flashed on, and off, and on. The solitary walker smiled, imagined that the two facing buildings were flirting, signaling, making love to each other, and strolled on whistling into the night.

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