by Marco North
Emily was in the garden. The thick grass tickled her elbows and the backs of her legs. She slept under the willow tree by the pond. Its limbs moved in the breeze as tears slid to her lips.
A man brushed them away, whispering little nonsense words and part of a lullaby.
"Please," he sang quietly. "Please, don't cry."
A turtle surfaced in the pond.
She made a tiny noise.
"Can I tie your shoe?" he said.
Grand Central Station sat under the Pan Am Building. The angels on the south face glowed in the damp afternoon air. A lone truck honked many feet below, trying to turn onto 42nd Street.
Wary shoe shiners looked up and down the block, recognizing the late morning slump. A cab splashed through a leftover puddle and ruined the top layer of newspapers at the corner stand.
People shuffled through the great hall, weaving towards their trains.
Beyond track 39 on the lower level were a series of access tunnels and storage rooms.
Emily slept in a crawl space close to the tracks.
I have never met him before. I could not see his face because my eyes were always closed. He was the gentlest thing I have ever met—like a kitten, or a baby chicken.
Emily stood under the arrival sign. She stared at track 16 with her left hand out, her right one supporting it at the wrist. She shifted her weight sometimes, and pulled her baseball hat up a little or down a little.
"Thank you," she whispered, whether someone gave her change or didn't.
When she had enough for coffee, she went to Zaro's.
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," she said to the woman behind the counter.
"What?" the woman asked.
"Extra cream, seven sugars," she said.
An old man was playing an accordion in the great hall.
She sat a few feet from him, with her legs crossed.
Emily studied his hands and his shoes.
She stood up and twirled in circles. She tried to see things in the ceiling, turning faster and faster.
She didn't like his eyes and tried not to look at them.
He took her money and pressed the vial into her palm.
She watched his feet until they disappeared behind a dumpster.
The sky hung low, hiding the tip of the Empire State Building. Small piles of dirty snow remained at the feet of street lights. It was warm, but Emily could see her breath in front of her.
She thought of carousel horses, and how angry their faces were. She thought of their toothy smiles, the smell of stale popcorn and leather. The horses lurched forward and children were screaming, waving their hands at their parents.
She rested against a building, her knees curled to her chest. A cigarette burned down to the filter in one of her hands, unsmoked.
The moon glowed, near full. Trees that bordered Central Park were covered with ice, drawing the lines of their branches against the night sky.
A couple kissed on Fifth Avenue near the stone lions of the library.
The streetlight changed and they parted at the corner. The woman got in a cab. The man walked west, towards the long line of red taillights on 42nd Street.
A neon sign sputtered in the darkness.
I'm not going to be here much longer. There is this guy. I just need to find him. We will have a house, maybe even someday soon.
I will have a baby. We will have a backyard for her to play in and then one day she'll go to school and I will make her lunch every day. I will put a note in it every day, like in a fortune cookie.
The Staten Island Ferry chugged towards Manhattan, the water reflecting the white sky.
People made their way through the turnstiles, and to the street.
A man with long white hair slept on a loading dock off 37th Street. A bouquet of flowers lay past his hands, wrapped in shiny purple paper. A half pint of whiskey sat in his lap. It slid sideways and spilled out, drawing crooked lines across the sidewalk.
Emily saw him from the corner.
She approached him, smelling the flowers and the liquor and his clothes all at once.
The man in the bodega was shouting on the phone. She thought of paying for the Hershey Bar, but she grabbed it and ran out.
He was still asleep. She touched his eyebrows, and then his cheek. She slid the Hershey Bar into his shirt pocket and pulled a tulip from the bouquet.
Emily stared at some graffiti, then closed her eyes and made a wish. Keeping her eyes closed, she leaned into his face and kissed him once on the lips.
The baby was crying. It was raining and the baby was crying.
The man was there and he sang to the baby and she stopped. Everything was perfect and the baby glowed and the man started to glow.
He was in the hospital. He was behind the big window, looking at all of the babies. They were all crying and wiggling and mostly sleeping.
He was watching over them.
April brought a light rain.
The giant clock in the zoo struck ten and the bronze animals danced slowly, turning in circles. Children in yellow rain coats stood beneath it, hypnotized by the quiet song that played from inside.
Today is my birthday. I think I will be lucky and meet him today.
Emily made her way through the park to the fountain with the giant angel. She made a wish and tossed a penny into the water.
She closed her eyes and stretched her fingers to see if a bouquet of daisies was next to her.
The sun came out and she looked at it through her eyelids. Emily studied the clouds, trying to see horses and fish.
The sky grew dark blue.
Emily shivered and woke up.
She looked around and saw no one at the fountain.
Thunder rumbled softly in the distance.
The city stood against the dark clouds. The skyscrapers shone metallic and green, as lightning flashed strangely on them.
Feet shuffled on the subway platform, dark with chewing gum stains.
A man extended his hand.
Blue sparks from the train hurt her eyes.
He was in the street and his face was very sad.
He bought a ticket and got the right track and then he got on the train and he was gone.
She stared at the woman in the bathroom stall. Her shirt had been pulled off. A needle dangled from her arm, half-full of blood.
Emily thought of reaching in and closing the woman's eyes.
I am going.
Emily sat on the sidewalk, a paper cup next to her. A forest of legs and briefcases wove past her.
She shuffled the cup.
She slept on a bench across from Macy's. Her baseball hat fell to the ground and someone took it.
She gave me 50 bucks to leave the house and I did. I am pretty and things will start to happen for me once I get discovered. People look at me and they see me. One of them is going to tell me that I'll be famous someday. I will be a singer or a actress and then I'll send her the 50 dollars back.
She smoked a cigarette on the West Side Highway. The cars whipped past her, spraying rainwater against her pants.
She pulled her jacket around herself and shivered once.
Fog hid the tops of the buildings. She blew smoke towards them and felt around in her pockets.
The vodka had gotten warm and tasted metallic.
She snorted what was left of a vial and leaned into a wall, hugging herself.
Trucks moved slowly through the narrow streets as the carcasses of cows and pigs swung along the rafters. The cobblestones grew dark with blood.
She thought of the man and pretended he was in the country. She saw a beautiful field and every blade of grass that grew in it. Some wildflowers bent in the wind and found their way to her hands. She apologized to the field for taking them.
The air was warm and sweet. Clouds were racing west, towards a line of trees.
She could not see him anymore. She thought he might have become one of the blades of grass.
Marco North lives in New York City. "Emily" was written over the course of seven years and is intended to be part of a larger work titled The Year of the Horse. Other selections from this unfinished collection have been published recently in Stray Dog, Colere, The Raven Chronicles, and The Red Wheelbarrow.