Sitting on the cold cement, she could feel the runoff from the rain seeping into her dress. She couldn’t tell if her umbrella landed behind her somewhere. She opened her eyes trying to squint through the droplets of rain. She saw his hand first, extended out towards her offering her support. Her eyes traversed the white glowing shirtsleeve made translucent by the soaking rain. She stopped on his eyes, lost in apology for causing her misfortune, trapped and obscured by the droplets of water and the crack through the left lens. She took his hand and pulled herself up.
He looked at her and then glanced at the woman posing with the guitar on a poster on the storefront window. It was unmistakeably the same woman. Her clenched teeth held a grimace of pain with a hint of frustration and anger. A pang of guilt stabbed his chest. He knew he needed to apologize, yet he found himself unable to. He looked down noticing that her fingers had yet to let go of his.
“Was it you that I heard practicing?”
The question took her aback. “Practicing?” she asked.
“Yes. Just now. I was working on a manuscript when I noticed the music coming from my outside window. I had just finished a cigarette a moment before.”
“What’s your building?”
“34 E Madison, The Windsor Plaza Building. #23A”
“I’m sorry you had to hear that. I still don’t feel the piece is ready yet.”
“No. I thought it was well done. I liked the struggle and the frustrating pain you brought to the piece. You made it speak to me.”
“Did you say you were a writer? Have you published anything?”
He nodded in reply, but the pulled corner of his cheek and the glance away told her of a similar pain.
“Just one book. I spent years writing it. I spent even longer trying to find a publisher for it. Out of the first run of 500, I gave away 30 copies and sold about that many. Then before I knew it, I was dropped by my publisher and then my agent.”
“What was it called? Maybe I’ll look it up and read it.”
“If you can find it, that is. It’s been out of print for almost two years. If you want to know, it was called, This Lonely Climb.”
She reached inside her purse and pulled out her copy and leafed through the book to find the author’s page. “So you’re Jack Archer?”
He nodded, then squinted at the poster and looked at the woman again. “And you must be Ana McDermont. Would you like to join me for coffee?”
“Sounds delightful.” she smiled taking his arm. Together they walked through the misty rain no longer caring about being safe and dry, both wondering if maybe, just maybe this lonely climb didn’t have to be so lonely after all.