Show me something beautiful.

“Show me something beautiful,” Amanda said.

This was addressed to the diminutive, blonde front desk clerk.  A young girl that had simply asked if there was anything she could do to help check her in.  Amanda thought the girl was cute the way she had a riser to stand on to combat her height disadvantage and didn’t like being alone on a trip so she thought she would ask.  She also caught the girl off guard.

“I’m sorry?”

“Can you show me something beautiful?”  She asked again, not wavering in her request.  Also not realizing how it might sound to someone else so out-of-the-blue as it was asked.

She often thought that if you’re not going to be who you want to be then why be anyone at all.  This was her motto put into practice.  A blunt question proposed at an awkward time to funnel her a natural response.

“I um, well we have plenty of beautiful sights around the city.  Art museums.  Architectural wonders.  It is New York, Miss.  You’re bound to see something beautiful anywhere you go.”

“So you’re going to make me find it on my own?”

She was quite capable of finding something beautiful on her own but she wanted a partner.  She wanted an adventure.  Amanda flicked her eyes to the girl’s name tag.

“Lindsay?  Lindsay, would you like to accompany me on a trip through New York to find something unequivocally beautiful?”

Amanda smiled at her and leaned forward on the desk like a child, lifting her feet off of the ground playfully.  She was being very forward and had no idea who this poor girl was but she wasn’t going to spend a week in New York City doing tourist things alone.

“Please.  I would appreciate it.  If you don’t have anything else going on.  You know where I’m staying and have all of my information.  You can feel free to call it a day whenever you’d like and we’ll go our separate ways.  I’ll even tell your manager that I asked you to take me on a tour to make sure it’s known it was my idea.  Please Lindsay, I’d love to see what a New Yorker thinks is beautiful in their own city.”

Lindsay stammered, still caught off guard, “I guess I could.  I mean, if you really want.”

Lindsay had no idea what to make of the strange request.  She was used to being hit on by men or having women ask her where the best place in the city to go was, both questions annoyed her for different reasons.  But she was never asked to be a tour guide before, and this strange dark-haired girl with the round face and the infectious smile wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“I do really want, Lindsay.  I do!”  Amanda clapped her hands together and hopped up and down in front of the desk.

“When do you get off?  We’ll go for dinner.”

“530,” Lindsay responded.

“Perfect!  That’ll give you a bunch of time to think of something uniquely beautiful to show me after dinner tonight.  I’ll see you then.”

Amanda bounced towards the elevator with her luggage and went up to her room.  She threw her bag on the second bed and flung the curtains open to look out at the rooftops and imagine all of the places of wonder she can find between them.  She made a new friend and this is going to be the start of something magical.  She’ll make sure of that.

********

Time is the oddest concept that we have to endure.  It never stops.  It never listens.  Depending on where you are or what you’re doing it can be manipulated internally but not externally.  It moves the same everywhere in the world yet everyone in the world is not under the same time point.

Amanda was pacing her room at 5pm.  Cursing the entity of time and its slow crawl around the clock.  Trying to reason with herself why it wouldn’t be a good idea to simply go sit in the lobby and wait for Lindsay to get off work.

Lindsay’s day was nearly over.  It whizzed past her since her abrupt meeting with Amanda.  She didn’t feel as if she accomplished a thing the entire day.  Each time looking at the clock and having the minute hand mocking her as it seemed to break the laws of time and space.  She hadn’t been able to think of a single place to take Amanda that she would consider beautiful.

Of course there were plenty of beautiful places but they all felt so cliche.  Lindsay had grown up in New York and she didn’t want to be a cliche.  Tourists would stand at the foot of the Statue of Liberty and admire her grace.   Everyone knows 30 Rockefeller Plaza and how its lit up at night.  The Empire State Building.  Grand Central Station.  Times Square.  They were all beautiful, but something about Amanda’s glee-filled face made Lindsay want it to be unique and special.

One minute left.

“Oh god,” Lindsay muttered to herself.  She swore she looked at the clock only few seconds ago and it had just turned five o’clock.

Then, almost as if she had been waiting until the clock struck 530, Amanda bounded off of the elevator towards Lindsay at the front desk with her eyes wide and a smile spread across her face.

“You’re off.  Lets go!”

Lindsay couldn’t help but smile back.  It was as if Amanda had known her since they were in Kindergarten.  She didn’t know many people with such zest for life.  So many were concerned with appearance and what others thought of them that they didn’t let themselves act so innocent and free.  People come to a big city to grow up and that usually meant they lose who they were.  Amanda had an aura of wonderment surrounding her and it pulled everyone in.

Lindsay laughed a little, “yeah, I am.  Just a moment.  I have to clock out and grab my things.  I’m not really dressed for anything fancy.  I hope you don’t mind.  My place is a bit of a subway ride in the opposite direction of good food and I don’t want to take you too far away from anything.”

“You look fine.  We aren’t going to the Met gala.  Just get your stuff and lets go.  I’ll be outside.”

Amanda spun around and marched towards the revolving door.  She loved the look of the lobby.  The ceilings were tall and the floors were shining.  It reminded her of every New York hotel lobby she had ever seen in every movie.  The revolving door and the giant windows looking out onto the street were perfect as well, as if Norman Rockwell had been a socialite architect and designed every lobby in the city.

She pushed through the revolving doors and emptied out onto the loud sidewalk.  Horns and engines were battling for supremacy to find out who could be loudest.  The hum of conversations and foot steps up and down the sidewalk was the perfect New York ambient noise experience.

Amanda was swept up in the experience when she felt a tap on her shoulder and spun around.

“Um, hi.  Hello,” a young man stood in front of her with a whitened smile and clutching a back pack over his left shoulder.

“Oh, hello.  Am I in the way?”  Amanda responded before doing an awkward dance trying to step aside before he even answered.

“No, no,” he said, “I was just admiring you taking in your surroundings and wanted to say hello.  Not a lot of people get welcomed in New York and I was hoping to give you a good taste of hospitality before you experienced the other side of it.”

“Oh well, very kind of you.  Thanks.”

She wasn’t sure what to make of this strange man approaching her.  Obviously a native but unsure if he had alternate intentions, she left the heavy lifting of the conversation to him.

“Yes well, did you just get in?  I don’t take it that you’re from here.  Oh and hello again, I’m Barry.”

“Hello Barry.  Barry?  Your parents named you Barry?”

He laughed.

“Yes, they did.  It was my grandfather’s name.  It’s not the youngest sounding name, I agree but I think it’s better then Jett or Colt or Tavin.  Those are all actual names of some of my nephews.  Barry sounds pretty good compared to them.”

Amanda smiled and nodded, “you do have a point there.  But you’ll have to excuse me if I call you Tavin for the rest of our conversation.  It’s too good an opportunity to pass up.”

“You can call me whatever you want if you tell me your name,” his eyes never left hers even as she tried to lose them in the crowd every time the revolving door spun.

“Caroline.  My name is Caroline.”

She felt bad lying to him, but she didn’t know him.  She wasn’t sure what he was after and she was always taught to be cautious of strange men with bright smiles asking questions.

“That’s perfect,” he smiled wider.

“Why is that?” she raised an eyebrow and answered without prompting this time.

“Because, if you’re going to call me Tavin then I’m going to call you Ms Kennedy, Caroline.”

She bit her lip to keep from smiling again.

Damnit he’s cute, she thought.  Clever too.

Amanda looked at the revolving door again.

“Are you waiting for someone?”  He turned his head towards her pointed gaze.

“Yes, I am actually.  My uh- Lindsay!  Lindsay!”  She spotted Lindsay moving through the normal doorway next to the revolving one and ran over to her.

“This is my Lindsay.  I mean my uh- girlfriend.  Lindsay.  Lindsay, this is Tavin, I mean Barry.  I mean- him.  This is a guy I just met, who we are now leaving.”

Lindsay turned towards Amanda wide-eyed and confused and simply nodded as she was practically dragged down the street.  Amanda laced fingers with her as they walked side by side while leaning over slightly and whispering, “don’t turn around.  I’ll explain in a minute.”

Amanda then turned half around to make sure Barry wasn’t following.  She shot him a wave as he stood there with a perplexed look on his face and shouted, “bye Tavin!  It was lovely meeting you!”

He yelled back, “same to you Ms Kennedy!”

With a few more steps they were around the corner and Amanda collapsed into Lindsay laughing hysterically, nearly knocking her into a porch railing.

“Oh my god!  Perfect timing.  Thank you!”

She let go of Lindsay’s hand and wiped tears from the corner of her eyes.

“He came out of nowhere.  I think he was going to try and pick me up.  I tried to seem disinterested but polite.  He wasn’t picking up the vibe so I had to play the gay card.  Sorry, I hope that didn’t make you uncomfortable.”

Lindsay shook her head, “no.  Not at all.”

This made a question Lindsay had, but felt too awkward to ask, a little more difficult.  When Amanda had asked her out she wasn’t sure if it was a date or merely a tour guide.  That she pretended to be a lesbian to avoid a man’s come-on attempts confused it further.  Did it mean she wasn’t gay or that she was?  Lindsay wasn’t sure and the confusion made it worse by the growing crush she was developing on Amanda.

“I know it doesn’t usually work and sometimes has the opposite effect, making men think they’re getting a BOGO but it was a quick blur to say, hi sorry lesbos bye and just leave.”

Amanda continued to laugh as they walked aimlessly down the street.  She was having so much fun and she hadn’t even really done anything yet.  She blew off a guy.  She met a friend.  She’s living the HBO-approved life of a young woman in New York and she doesn’t want to come down from that high.

“Okay now.  Pressing matters.  Dinner, where art thou?”

Amanda stopped dead in her tracks, took both Lindsay’s hands in hers and stared into her eyes.  The gaze was penetrating.  Amanda was average height for a girl but Lindsay was a shade under five feet tall.  The girl she was developing a crush on was holding her hands and staring into her eyes so intently she felt like her thoughts were being read.  Private thoughts.  Make your cheeks burn red thoughts.

“Lindsay are you okay?  You’re really red.”

Lindsay laughed nervously and tried to hide her face.  Pushing her blonde hair in front of her and turning away.  She hated the way she got embarrassed.  The blood rushes to her face and her pale white skin is painted over in a red hue almost instantly as if she were a chameleon’s antithesis.

“Oh yes I’m just a little overwhelmed by that back there.  I’m not so outgoing as you seem to be and I don’t often talk to or get approached by strange men.  Don’t worry about it.  I just needed a moment.  I’m okay now.”

She turned back to Amanda and smiled then quickly looked down the street, separating the intense smile that Amanda always had on her face from her own insecurities.

“There is a um, Indian place down the street I go for lunch sometimes.  Or Mexican.  Then a few blocks down is a great pizza place if you don’t mind a walk.  New York style pizza, nothing better.”

“YAS!”  Amanda jumped.

“Authentic New York experience bucket list check mark number 3.  We are doing pizza, girl.  Get your ‘Za mind on,” Amanda grabbed Lindsay’s hand and started walking in a determined runway trot.

Typically Lindsay would find such behavior obnoxious.  She would roll her eyes and mutter under her breath a snarky remark about dumb bitches that she would later perfect and tweet so she can smile at all of the kudos she got.  But not now, not with Amanda.  She was a part of the obnoxious behavior and she was enjoying it.  She was a dumb bitch and she felt a bit of regret for all of her past mean-spirited mocking.

“Should we take the subway?  I haven’t been on the subway yet,” Amanda asked as they approached the stairs leading below the street.

“The subway?”  The tone in Lindsay’s voice was mean-girl adjacent.  As if she had just been asked to dab or participate in a flash mob.

“New Yorkers don’t take the subway for a few blocks.  If you want a real New York experience you hoof it.  The subway is only used for across town travel.  Don’t be one of those people.”

Amanda laughed, “I love the sass!  Walking it then.  Let’s go.”

The girls made their way down the street.  Amanda prattled on about random subjects and things she saw on the street.  Lindsay nodded and interjected when she had something to add or was asked a direct question.  Sometimes she didn’t even know if Amanda wanted an answer and was just waiting for the string on her back to be pulled again.

The fifteen minute walk to Sal’s Pizzeria didn’t feel like much.  Lindsay was in her work heels and her feet didn’t hurt nearly as bad as she thought they would.  Amanda was in sneakers and could jump into a marathon if one broke out.

The storefront was nondescript.  A white sign with Sal’s name on it and a claim for the best pizza in New York.  A window on each side of the door with stool seating and a view in.  The cafeteria style line up and the men behind the counter making and serving pizza hungry customers.  Lindsay pulled the door open for Amanda and the smell poured out onto the street and sucked in anyone within a ten foot radius.

“Oh my god, I’m so hungry.  I could probably eat a whole pizza myself,” Amanda bounced on the balls of her feet while in line.

Lindsay stood still, admiring Amanda’s energy.

“I think I’ll do a salad,” she said.

“A salad?  Girl no.  A salad is not dinner unless you’re on a date with someone you’re trying to impress.  You’re having pizza.  If you don’t finish it then whatever but I’m not watching you eat the food equivalent of reading IKEA instructions for enjoyment.”

Lindsay looked down as Amanda hit the nail on the head with her assessment of dinner choice.  She nodded and sheepishly agreed, “alright, pizza.  You’re right.”

Amanda asked for a classic New York style pepperoni pizza and seemed really excited at the novelty of it hanging off of her plate dripping grease.  Lindsay grabbed a few napkins and started dabbing it on the cheese to sop it up.

“You can eat garbage, but you don’t have to kill yourself,” she gave Amanda a wink to make sure she didn’t come off as stuck up.

She ordered a Greek slice and was thankful Amanda didn’t have any comment about the lack of meat or how spinach didn’t belong on a pizza as her ex-girlfriend used to every time she ordered it.

They found a booth a few feet from the door and moaned gloriously every time someone came in and a cool breeze shot through the small space to counter act the oven’s pumping at full blast.  Amanda devoured her slice, even taking half the crust before tapping the table and exclaiming, “I’m out!”

Lindsay nibbled along the edges of her wedge.  Her mouth never opening more than it needed to and the bites looking as if a small bird pecked crumbs off an inch at a time.  She even considered asking if there were any plastic forks and knives but decided the potential ridicule for such a question wasn’t worth the reward.  She imagined Amanda sitting across the table from her staring an amazed stare as each piece was cut delicately before being placed in her mouth.  The things she would have said.

Slightly more than half of her pizza wasn’t eaten.  Lindsay went up to the counter and asked if they had a way of giving the remainder to a homeless shelter.  After laughing the man behind the register realized she was serious and apologized.

“Sorry, we don’t really have any way of doing that.  Very kind of you though.  You’re a sweet girl.”

“Do you have a plastic knife or something at least?”  She asked.

“Why?”

“Oh because I’ll just go give it to someone but I’m sure they don’t want my germs on it.  I was going to cut off the ends that I ate.”

He laughed again, but this time it wasn’t in a harsh way.

“You really are a sweetheart.  Here, give it to me.  I’ll cut it for you.  I’ll talk to the manager about maybe doing something like this in the future though.  It’s a good idea.”

He winked at her and she smiled back.  He was cute, by hetero standards.  Thankfully she wasn’t into hetero standards so his suave wink didn’t make her face flush red.

After retrieving her manicured left overs the girls headed out into the streets again in search of someone to donate the food to.  It didn’t take long until they found a man sitting in an alley way with tattered clothes and a cardboard sign folded up underneath him.  The words, “you, God Bless,” visible underneath him.  Lindsay approached him slowly.

“Hi?  Hello.  I’m sorry to bother you but I couldn’t finish this and I was wondering if you’d like it.  I had the ends cut off so you don’t have to worry about my germs on it or anything.”

Lindsay spoke in a kind, motherly tone.  The man looked older than her.  Most homeless would with what they go through, even if they were younger.  She held her hand out with the foil wrapped slice and the man nodded and reached out to take it.  His eyes thanked her more than his words knew how.  She smiled and shook her head.

“Don’t worry about it.  Happy to help.”

Amanda had been quiet for a few minutes.  She had always thought herself a kind person and willing to help others, but Lindsay was on another level.  She was awestruck.

As they walked away down the street Amanda leaned over and said in a soft voice, “you know most people talk about helping the hungry.  They donate money when there is a drive.  They say how awful it is.  But you did something I had never seen anyone do in my entire life.  Most people would have thrown their food away and not thought twice about it.  You had yours prepared and wrapped and then went out in search of someone who needed it.  Lindsay, you’re incredible.”

Amanda reached over and placed her arm around Lindsay’s shoulder.  The universe picked someone special for her and she was so in awe of it.

Lindsay was just glad that it was getting dark now.  The shadows were creeping over the streets.  The sun was below the buildings and the sky was a dance of red and orange.  There was no way that Amanda was going to be able to see her blushing now.  Not out of embarrassment but out of how wonderful it feels to have Amanda’s weight against her body.

She didn’t respond to the praise, but gave a smile and a shrug like it was just who she was.  She didn’t want someone to thank her for being a kind person, she just wanted more kind people.  There needed to be more people who saw themselves and others as human beings and reflections instead of a completely different entity.

“Oh my god!  I know-,” Lindsay stopped talking immediately and did her best impression of Amanda that she could muster.

“Come on!”  She pulled Amanda’s hand and started walking back the other way.  After taking a quick look up at the sky then pulling out her phone she paused.

“Wait, not yet,” and spun around again yanking Amanda in the original direction.

“What are you doing, girl?” She laughed as Lindsay yanked her this way and that.

“Oh nothing.  I just had an idea but I don’t think it’s going to work.”

“What was it?”

“Nothing.  Don’t worry about it.  Lets go find you something beautiful.”

The two girls walked around New York City as the sky grew dark.  The streets shined with the lights from the street lamps, cars and tall buildings.  The sound of the city never dulled or sharpened either.  It kept the same steady beat and blended into the background as if it were designed that way as part of the over all experience of New York.

Whenever Amanda would cross a street she grabbed Lindsay’s hand so they wouldn’t get separated in the crowd.  Laughing afterwards and apologizing for being so silly.  Lindsay tried to cross as many streets as she could find after being told this.

She also knew she was probably setting herself up for heart ache.  Lindsay figured Amanda wasn’t into girls.  The way she casually used the ruse to fool a prospective suitor wasn’t something Lindsay figured a girl who was into girls would do.  She would never think of it herself.

This was going to end bad but as long as it didn’t end she could find some enjoyment out of it.  Spending the night with a pretty girl, holding her hand.  An almost dream like date that showed up at her door out of nowhere.  Who was she to say no to it’s kind offer?

The night was pushing on and she figured it should wrap up.  They could have spent the late hours of the morning together and it wouldn’t be enough but Lindsay was in fear of over staying her welcome and ruining the amazing feeling she had inside right now.  She didn’t tell Amanda but they started back towards the hotel.  Everything looked different at night so she wouldn’t notice until they were right back at the revolving doors.

“Thank you, by the way,” Amanda said out of nowhere.

They had been walking a few minutes down a quiet side street and she split the silence.

“For what?” replied Lindsay.

“Tonight.  Everything.  You made my first night in New York amazing.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

“Oh well, don’t worry about it,” Lindsay dipped her head again as she always does with compliments.

“No, seriously Lindsay.  Thank you.  This city has always held a special place in my heart, despite never being here before.  I’m from a small town.  I know, how cliche.  But I grew up in such a small town in Wisconsin and we never went to any big cities.  Chicago was only a few hours away but my parents were always scared of the big city.  I went to school in Madison.  They called me every night to make sure I was safe.  When I graduated the first thing on my list of lifetime accomplishments was to go to New York.  I didn’t know what I was going to do once I got here but I was going to come here.  Whether it was for a week or permanently, that hadn’t been decided yet.  I didn’t want to go running back home and live a small town life forever.  You made me see that I can make it here.  I can survive, all I need is a friend.”

With that Amanda grabbed Lindsay’s hand and squeezed it and brought it to her lips for a kiss.

“You’ve been incredible and I sincerely thank you, Lindsay.”

There was no response from the recipient of the praise.  She was trying not to cry.  She merely nodded again and smiled while managing an Mmhmm through her lips and hoping she didn’t start sniffling.

“Oh.  We’re back?”  Amanda looked around at the outside of the hotel then back at Lindsay.

“Yeah I uh, didn’t want to keep you out all night on your first day here.  I didn’t want to bore you.”

Amanda smiled, “you could never bore me.  This has been one of the best days I’ve ever spent with someone.”

Lindsay wiped her eye and ducked into the building.  Amanda followed close behind.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t show you anything uniquely beautiful, Amanda.  I’m not someone who appreciates beauty enough really.  I think I have a hard time finding it.  Personal issues I guess.”

“You showed me so many beautiful things tonight.  It was incredible.”

The lobby was quiet and empty.  The street’s whir was nearly gone and everything seemed silent.  Lindsay looked at the night clerk across the lobby manning the front desk and gave them a wave behind Amanda’s back to go away.  He gave a confused look back and she continued to wave until the he shrugged his shoulders and walked away.

“Wait right here,” Lindsay smiled and faced Amanda towards the revolving doors.

“Why?”

“I have one more thing to show you.  One more beautiful thing and I hope you appreciate it as much as I do.”

“Oh I’m sure I will.”

Lindsay ran behind the counter, her heels clacking across the ground.  She reached under the desk and flipped a switch and all of the lights in the lobby shut off.  It wasn’t pitch black but the ceiling was invisible in the darkness and the only light poured in from the street and pointed upward from behind the front desk about 20 yards away.

Amanda slowly rotated around and looked at the lobby with new eyes.  The way the floor seemed to sparkle in the faint light from both ends spread a smile across her face.

“I love this place at night,” Lindsay said moving towards her.

“I used to work the night shift and get off at 7 am.  When we’d have a power outage the entire building would go dark except the battery powered lights behind the desk and the lights filtering in from the street.  I always thought it was so beautiful and perfect in all the chaos.”

“And now there is this to add to it,” Lindsay shifted Amanda’s position and stood her in front of the revolving doors with the big windows.  She stood right behind her and let Amanda look at the reflection of herself in the window.  The way the light caught her form and distorted it in a haze and blur made her look like a work of art.

“One of the most beautiful places in the city under the most beautiful circumstances now with one of the most beautiful people I have had a chance to meet.  I hope you see just a little bit of beauty in this moment, Amanda.”

There was silence and it echoed all the way up into the ceiling’s darkness.  Lindsay’s stomach felt like it was rolling down a hillside and hitting every rock on the way down.  She needed any kind of response so she could react.  Being in limbo was torture.

Amanda turned around finally, tears down her cheeks.

“Awww,” Lindsay started tearing up as well, “no please don’t cry.”

Amanda wiped away the tears and shook her head from side to side slightly.  She dabbed her finger tips at the corner of her eyes trying to soak up anything else.

“I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know how to respond.  Nobody has ever said or done something so sweet for me.”

Lindsay smiled up at Amanda through her tears, “well they should have.  Somebody should have.”

Amanda looked down and Lindsay leaned forward to kiss her when Amanda turned to the side and started crying again.  Lindsay’s heart dropped fifty stories in a second.

“I-I have a boyfriend back home.  I’m sorry.  I like you though, Lindsay.  I’m so confused.”

Lindsay stared at the pretty brunette girl standing in front of her.  The one she couldn’t read.  The one she knew she was going to get hurt by and it would be her own fault.  The amazing, beautiful, fun-loving girl that brought her out of her shell for an evening.  There were no words that could express her sorrow.  Not enough tears to could convey her pain at that moment.  So she stood there with her mouth agape staring at the confused girl in front of her as she cried.  Not knowing what to do or say but knowing no matter what happened from this day forward nothing in her life will feel quite as painful as this.

2 thoughts on “Show me something beautiful.

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