It was five o’ clock. The day had been spent futilely as I attempted to reconcile the haphazardly entered accounts of six months previous. I had spent the morning staring at the light-emitting screen and checking off deposits and withdrawals. All the hours in between now and then had been wasted in frustration as I gaped at the screened and punched in phone numbers of people who couldn’t really help me unless there in person.
The office was freezing; drinking two chilled bottles of water was no help. I ate hot soup around noon and occasionally switched places with the receptionist as she confirmed appointments, clicking periodically at her usual computer.
Soon I succumbed to failure. I resigned myself to watching television in a stiff backed leather chair in the waiting room. A six-year-old with dark hair down to her back was sitting cross-legged on the carpet just in front of the television; her mother was seeing a hygienist. Eventually Dad finished with work and we rolled our bicycles to the elevator and rumbled down to ground level.
When we clattered out into the foyer, we rode out of the complex’s white cement parking lot and pedaled down the sidewalk to the intersection. Dad stopped after me and I leaned over and pushed the scratched metal button for the walk signal. I stood on the cement straddling the bike; I straightened up and adjusted the bicycle. Then I looked up. A small, nondescript (but reasonably tasteful) vehicle waited in the left turn lane. As nondescript to my memory were the occupants of the two front seats (though I remember they were filled).
But sitting calmly in the back of the car, at the window closest to us, was a man. He was about twenty, with dark hair, and dark, intuitive, expressive, emotional eyes edged by thick dark brows. He wore a black coat; I ascertained that he was Middle Eastern.
We noticed each other at the same moment. Contrary to the instinct of an embarrassed glance in a public place, we did not turn away instantaneously. Our gazes held. The arrow blinked green. The left turners curved in front of me. Our heads turned, holding the moment in our memories perpetually. Then, slowly, intimately, he raised a hand from his lap, and waved it at me, palm facing the window. Comprehending it, I waved back, my being stationary on the cement.
And then the man was gone, replaced by the impersonal, remote cars trailing him. Our signal to walk flashed white. Dad spoke, joking to me that he had seen a man checking me out; I smiled and we laughed.
After we passed the intersection, I shot ahead of him, pedaling madly, breathing in the deep cold air as it bit my face and blew my hair back; I knew I would never see the man again. My eyes were imperceptibly moist: nobody would ever be aware of my encounter with the man.
Looking back on that moment, I know that the man knew the same things I knew- that we would, in all probability, never see one another again. So in that wave to me, he had said, “Hello.” And we had met. But he had also said, “Goodbye.”
And we had parted.