Glowing Pride

December 29, 2009
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A feeling of fear overwhelmed me as the cautious traffic light blinks out its orange warning as the last stragglers of the workforce drive home. Crushed Coke cans fling their way against the sidewalk, unable to stop underneath the blowing gust of December air. I gulped. Loud, shouting, rambles of laughter echoed down this dark street, illuminated only by the dim light of the street lamps. Keeping my head down, I let my musky brown bangs cover my eyes as I sneaked a peek at the direction of these foreign accented shouts. Hooded men with low falling baggy jeans, huge metallic belt buckles, untied gangster shoes, accessorized with huge silver chains as necklaces, trooped past us.

I shivered. Pulling my cargo, fleece coat tighter around me, I cuddled closer toward Mom, hoping that the men wouldn’t detect us. The possible danger was clear and ominous. Oblivious, my mom only had eyes for the street signs as she tried to pick her way through her map, continuously muttering that our hotel couldn’t be very far away.

The noisy pack of voices grew more and more distant until the only noise I could hear was the clanks of our suitcases as they hit crack after crack in the sidewalk. Thump…The-Thump…The-Thump…The-Thump. My eyes watered, my endurance slipping as the artic wind bore down on my frosted cheeks. Hiding myself from this fierce enemy, I bowed my head, letting my hair take the hardest hits from the wind as I let my eyes trail my Nike shocks as they trampled after Mom’s black stiletto heels.

Click. Clack. Click. Her feet stopped as her knees slouched with exasperation. I looked up. Where we here? I glanced at the building that towered in front of us. Its metallic body bore the words: Huntington Bank. Gazing into the various gleaming windows, I saw a few workers craning in the comfort of the heat and puffy cushions of their office desks. “Wait here,” Mom’s voice cut through the chorusing of the howling wind, “I’m going to go ask where the hotel is. Don’t move!”

My eyes bugged out, breath shaking as Mom, my only protection from the night in New York City, fled away, engulfed into the prestigious skyscraper. I was alone.

The rustling of plastic trash bags and shutters banging on walls against the harsh, unrelenting wind. My heart beat louder and louder at the hostility of the silence and the frightening fact that anything could happen to me in a city like this, and no one would even notice.

The moaning voice of an old man sounded down the block. Eyes immediately alert, I tracked my target. The lumpy figure of a man that had definitely known hardship, shuffled through the street toward me, held a torn trash bag over his shoulder. His unkindly grunts sounded with each of his limping motions as he carried himself through this night. As he approached a nearby street lamp, the dim light revealed another clue to his appearance. In this cold, he wore a torn t-shirt, and a mud encrusted pair of blue jeans. His boots bore a hole at the front, showing off a pair of plaid, dark green socks. His overgrown beard and shaggy brown hair covered most of his face. But his eyes shined through.

Dazzling, swimming pool blue eyes. With only a mere glimpse of them, I was immediately stunned by their intensifying amount of electricity that tensed from them. They gave a spark of power and pride, yet anyone could see the loneliness and sadness about him. My heart fell for him. I rummaged through my pockets for something to give him.

“Maria! The hotel is right there!” my mother’s voice erupted, making me flinch with surprise was she burst out of those prominent glass doors. She gestured at the inn just down the street. “I can’t believe we missed it!” she gushed happily. I glanced back at the man over my shoulder as my mom pulled me to a stumbling run.

I locked eyes with him. Startled, I quickly looked away, but not before I saw his smile that quickly warmed me. And I knew that I was glad I hadn’t offered him anything. His pride was his everything. As we crossed the street, a feeling of comfort overwhelmed me. I was at peace.

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