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Starting with Coffee
Every evening at exactly 10:26 PM, Jacob would leave his apartment building, walk a thousand feet down the street, and order a large whole milk mocha with whipped cream from my coffee shop. We first bonded over that mocha; it was his favorite drink and mine (after vodka). I admired him from the moment we met, and I think I was his closest friend. We’d gone on a few outings normal people would call dates, but I could tell he wasn’t into “normal people dating activity”. I don’t tend to care about that when it comes to fascinating people. Life is dull without Jacob.
Jacob’s frustrating, in that he manages to look completely modest and utterly gorgeous at the same time. He perpetually has his steel rimmed, round glasses perched on his nose, framing his calm, deep blue eyes. He wore faded, soft clothing that made him look as though all the problems in the world couldn’t upset his contentment. I’ve heard him called an “old soul”. To this day I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it sounds like it fits him well.
At 10:28 my head whipped up to greet him, and he grinned at me. Just a bit of white sparkle, just a bit cheeky. I often wish I could pull off “old soul charming” like him.
Jacob asked if I could help him with something, and if I could come to his apartment. I’d never been in there, and looking back several hundred alarm bells should have rung in my mind. It took me twenty minutes and half a block to realize the health benefits for following a man I didn’t know all that well into his apartment were roughly the same as helping a stranger load his truck in the middle of the night. I drew my coat around me tighter, not because of my should’ve-been-nervousness, but because the wind was beginning to whip itself frantically around me like a demon. Snow crunched under my feet, a thin layer crackling all over the city. Strangely quiet even for this time of night, our neighborhood lay in a cold winter sleep. He offered me his coat, which I at first politely rejected. I appreciated the effort, but I pride myself in not being old fashioned. When I started shivering and he offered again, I couldn’t refuse. The dusty yet reassuringly warm coat enveloped me.
At the building he ignored the elevator. Up the stairs- I wheezed, he glided. I marveled at his silence. He didn’t waste words, but he’d also never been unfriendly.
He opened his door using an old skeleton key, and we walked in. He stood by this massive window, directly opposite the door. It two huge glass panes, delicately held together by crafted iron, beautiful in such a dilapidated old building. The rest matched his person- brown, comforting, and molded to his exact needs. It had two dim lamps casting shadows, and abstract paintings hung all around. I felt like I was in the classroom of one of my old English professors, back when I believed I could write.
"Nice place," I quipped, while walking towards him. My heels clicking sharply on the wood. I almost tripped and noticed the floor was bathed in shadow but had exposed brick, stone and cement. I steadied myself, looking out onto the city. I gasped.
The graffiti was awesome. Yes, awesome. Not puberty-infused, Monster-drinking, skateboarding awesome. Awesome as in leviathan, as in a glacier or an immense cliff. From this window’s angle only, I could see the roofs of every building, encrusted in gorgeous art.
On every building a blue tinted light shown, apparently on the doors to the roofs, but in reality illuminating the painting. On each door, a section of the massive graffiti was spray painted. The painting was a woman's face, painted in more colors than I thought spraypaint came in. Rose, aquamarine, honey, daffodil yellow, smoky greys, earthy browns, flaming orange. Each color chosen to be bright enough to be seen from a window far away, yet mellow enough to look good in the strange blue lighting. She was broken up into sections, and each section painted on a roof. Each piece was strange and abstract by itself from up close, but from our vantage point, a portrait.
"Who...how..." I sputtered. I'd never been speechless before.
“My wife. She’s uh, dead, by the way."
"Oh. I’m sorry.”
“It was a very long time ago, it’s alright.”
“You made this, then?"
"Yes. I made it."
"Not really. I'm not even a painter. She painted the original before she passed away. I just copied it onto every apartment building roof around here."
“That’s still incredible.”
“You’re right, a little bit.”
There were a few pieces missing still, I could see that. The graceful turn of her chin and cheek were there, and one slender arm, but the place where her fingers met her face were not.
"She was. I won't lie and say she didn't embellish a little bit in her own painting, but she was gorgeous." He turned and grinned at me, and he was far less intimidating when he did that. I realized I didn't care if he was crazy for doing what he did or for showing it to me.
"Well, I assume she wasn't quite as multicolored,” I said.
I liked the variety, though. Her skin was a splattering of gold and shimmering snow, and her hair had streamers of ivy and green streaking through it.
"I'm almost done, but not quite."
“Why would you show me this, Jacob?”
“This has been my recovery, Leia. At first I thought she asked me to do this to help her deal with dying, but I’ve realized this is how I’ve dealt with losing her, ten years of being in the company of her work and gradually learning to let go. It takes me a while to get over things..."
"Get over things?"
"I always thought you were more clever than that."
"I am, it's just rude to assume things."
"Well, assume away. I mean, isn't it a classic? Boy loves girl, girl dies, boy paints giant painting of her on every roof in New York City."
"Ha, I guess you're right there."
"I'm always right."
"No you're not."
"That's probably true."
He walked to the side, pulling a silky curtain partway over the window.
"How long until you finish it?" I asked, fingering the material nervously.
"A year, if I work alone," he answered. "I have a whole system, y'know. It's pretty complex, dates and times that I know the roofs are unguarded, going to three different paint supply stores so no one gets too used to me, sometimes even repainting where people have painted over." He turned to me, and grinned. I was ashamed I hadn't realized till now it was a challenge.
"How much time would it take with a partner?"
He laughed, casually putting one arm over my shoulder.
"We'll have all the time in the world," he said, sarcastically mimicking a cheesy movie ending.
That's when we kissed. It couldn’t have been a better ending, not in any movie, not ever.