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The rain was harsh and stinging. It came down with malicious consistency, eroding away at the concrete façade of the city, as well as her spirits. The wind, its ingenious partner in crime, was wet and cold against her face. It crept into all the tiny crevices of her coat, the chill permeating her entire body and numbing the tips of her fingers. Some damp, forlorn leaves brushed past her feet as she trudged down the grey sidewalk, questioning her pedestrian inclinations. The usually busy thoroughfare was unnervingly quiet and the sidewalk near empty, save for a few fellow poor-decision-makers and one or two damp pigeons. Some cheerful jazz music flowed out of a brightly lit sidewalkcafeé, an odd contrast to the distinctly monotone morning. She couldn’t help feeling a little bit forgotten as she made her way down the vacant street. She stopped at a warm-smelling bagel stand, and as she stood waiting, pulled her coat a little tighter around her and gazed up the city that seemed to swallow her whole and leave her alone in the cold.


Grabbing her hot onion bagel with scallion cream cheese, she resumed her journey downtown, straight into the belly of the beast. Her trek was far from over, and she was beginning to feel the relentless sting of the drizzling rain. Her face twisted into an expression of grim determination, she continued to struggle against the forces of nature. At last the promise of warm, dry air overcame her, and she began to jog to the nearest subway station. If not entirely sanitary, the subway at least provided some relief from these dismal conditions.


The noise hit her like a burst of steam as she bounced down the grime-covered stairs, the original color of the concrete completely obscured by countless strata of gum, dirt, and urban debris. A surfeit of pamphlets, take-out menus and business cards drifted through the air like fallen leaves on gusts of wind created by passing trains. The sounds of people chatting, turnstiles cranking, air brakes hissing and footsteps slapping against the tile all echoed through the station and created a kind of metropolitan music, the entire medley underscored by the constant buh buh, buh buh—buh buh, buh buh of wheels hitting the tracks. She closed her eyes and sighed, inhaling the stale, tainted air and wondering what it was about the city that so enchanted her.


Suddenly the piercing shriek of a stopping train cut through the subtle harmonies, cutting short her pleasant moment of reverie. Snatching her Metrocard out of her wallet, she hurriedly pushed through the turnstile and surrounding crowd before near-falling into the bustling train car. Snagging hold of the nearby pole as the train lurched out of the station, she turned her gaze out the small clouded window and focused on the fading graffiti as it flashed by. The random-looking scribbles struck her as oddly similar to ancient cave paintings, but she was too tired to contemplate what this said about human nature. ‘I’m always too tired’, she realized. ‘I really need a vacation. Or a nap, I suppose.’ Her sigh was lost in the scream of the skidding wheels, and as she struggled through the crowded car, fighting her way towards the opened door, she felt even more forgotten than before.


At last she tasted the cold, clean air of the streets. Emerging from the stuffy subway station, the clear, cutting rain was a refreshing relief, albeit an imperfect one. After taking a moment to reorient herself, she set off towards the towering skyscraper directly across the circle. Its modern, gleaming interior, once dazzling, now seemed commonplace to her. She pushed through the glass doors and strode across the polished atrium, vanishing into the crowd.


A few hours later she emerged, exhausted, from a whitewashed conference room on the 32nd floor. Today’s meeting had been particularly draining, and although everything had gone according to plan, it felt like a Pyrrhic victory. She sighed again, impatient to get home to her stylishly decorated apartment. While she was zealously mashing the buttons of the elegant glass elevator, one of the men from the meeting room stuck his hand between the closing doors.


He was mid-twenties, around her age, and well dressed in a sleek black suit with silver cuff links. His seafoam green eyes sparkled from behind a sweep of light brown curls. As they began to descend, he glanced over at her thoughtfully, started to say something, then apparently changed his mind. They were silent for another moment before he said “You really impressed me in that meeting.” He glanced down sheepishly, then back at her. “You really seemed to know what you were doing. I mean, you had those guys practically wrapped around your finger.” She grinned and looked over at him. “Thanks. It seemed a little forced to me, but then again, I knew it was.” He chuckled. “I wish I had that kind of presence. Maybe Mr. Reinhardt would finally remember my name.” “Ian, right?” “Yeah. And you’re Kiana, of course.” “Of course?” She questioned, smiling. “Yeah, everyone around the office seems to know you. I guess we haven’t really talked much, what with me just getting here.” “Well it’s good to finally get to know you, Ian.”


The elevator made a soft dinging sound and opened onto the bustling main floor. They walked across the atrium, chatting over the noise of the crowd. They pushed through the main doors and stopped a few feet in front of the building. The rain had ended, but had been replaced by a damp, chilling mist. “Hey, Kiana.” He paused slightly. “Do you think you’d like to, I dunno, get some coffee?” She caught a slight twinkle in his eyes. “Oh, I see.” She exhaled, a little disappointed in his intentions. “Sorry Ian, you’re not really my type. I’d love to be friends, though.” He frowned. “I think that’s a bit quick to make judgments.” She sighed. “That’s not really what I meant. Men aren’t really my type.” She squinted, now slightly suspicious. “You are a man, aren’t you?” “Of course I’m a man!” His eyes widened. “Wait you’re…?” She took a breath. “Yeah.” He stood there, mouth slightly agape. “Wow, I mean… I never would’ve guessed. You just seemed so normal.” She frowned. “Bye, Ian. See you tomorrow.” Turning on her heel, she left him slouching in front of the building, swallowed by a steady stream of passersby.

Her throat began to ache, but she knew she wouldn’t cry. She should have seen it coming. ‘It’s the subtle ones that sting,’ she thought. ‘The ones they don’t even realize.’ She wondered how she could feel so forgotten and yet so brazenly conspicuous at the same time. Blinking her misty eyes, she shoved her way through the throng, disappearing once more into the anonymity of the city.



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