High on an eighth floor was a newly occupied New York apartment. The place was already like home to that of a new resident, though strung along a series of selfsame complexes; it was only her second day in the city.
The move was sudden to everyone she knew back in Minnesota. She had never been so far away from home and alone. However, a change of scenery was all she could ever think about for the last two years. She wasn’t sure where she wanted to be, but it was anywhere but home. She assumed the further she was, the better.
The dark clouds that hid the sun drained the onlooker’s energy that she had ingested from a large cup of coffee she enjoyed moments ago.
The curious tenant pressed her nose against the cold glass and looked up to the muted, slate sky. Taking a glance around the overcast city, she saw the striking hues of the multi-colored leaves at the nearby park. September was coming, but fall had already arrived. She wanted to be in love with the season again. But of all of the fond memories, she’s ever had of the fall, a memory that she can never forget has overshadowed them all.
Pulling away, she observed the haze her lips left behind against the glass. Breathing heavily across the cold surface, she created a foggy canvas for herself. Promptly, her pointer finger was sketching all over the window. Squiggly line after line, the artist meticulously finished her self-portrait.
To her surprise, she was content with the image. Wavy dark locks and light freckles sprinkled across her cheeks, alongside with the awkward crook in her nose that no one else claims to see. It was an admirable caricature– one that she was quick to sign with her name, Gia.
Dashing down the sidewalk, she had established in her mind that she was already trailing minutes behind. It was near impossible to trot down the clustered and bombastic streets that led to the subway station. Though she was enthralled with it all, she was still not used to the fast-paced society.
A flimsy metro card and two long transfers later, she was pulled right back into the flows of human traffic. As soon as she exited the station, she looked up at the light dusky sky. Everywhere she turned, a tall building was reaching up to the heavens.
Soon enough, she was on her way again. Rushing down the street, Gia retraced her steps, from the evening before, to find the familiar tall grey and glassy tower.
Once she was in front of the revolving glass doors, she straightened her black pencil skirt and hastened to the receptionist’s desk planted as a half circle in the middle of the atrium.
“How can I help you?” the perky middle-aged woman began.
Looking past the woman’s curly auburn bangs and eye-swallowing lenses, Gia shyly answered, “I’m the new Graphic Design Assistant for InHouse. “
“Thirteenth floor,” she gleamed.
After a quick thank you, Gia was bolting to the line that had formed in front of the elevator. She could see the clear reflections of herself and other passengers in the large elevator doors. Of course, she spent most of the morning making sure no loose curls would present themselves, but alas sweat and frizz went too well together. It was ten minutes until 8 AM, and she would not be able to cope with being late on her first day.
Slipping out the compact elevator, Gia ran her hands across her frame again. She hadn’t even noticed her hands were shaking until she reached out to grab the sleek chrome doorknob that held the InHouse logo.
She couldn’t do it. Even after all the anticipation to start her first day here, she couldn’t even touch the door handle. Dashing to the nearest restroom, she ripped open the door and flew into the first available stall. Once the door latched closed, she pressed her back against the marble and wood panel.
After a few more grueling seconds, a more collected Gia exited the stall. While tempted, she didn’t panic over the matter of someone witnessed her exiting a stall without flushing, but Gia forced herself out of the bathroom’s door.
Standing in front of the entrance once more, she stared at InHouse’s logo against the opaque glass doors. A simple pull and she walked through.
“Welcome,” she heard immediately upon opening InHouse’s front door. “Nice and early. I like that.”
She pressed her lips together, before extending her hand to InHouse’s CEO, B. Robbie. B. Robbie’s salt and pepper hair complimented his age, but he was still fairly chiseled in his looks. Gia remembered interviewing with B. Robbie, but this receptive attitude juxtaposed what she recalled a month ago. He was cold, quiet, and diligent about eye contact during the duration of the interview. Feeling that she failed her interview at the time, Gia was positive she wouldn’t hear back from the company. Luckily, her portfolio was strong, and he “couldn’t turn such talent away”.
Gia hadn’t realized that she had let her thoughts run amuck until she noticed how B. Robbie had already taken several steps away from her in the starts of a company tour.
After a long run-through of the office space and a couple of bathroom breaks, Gia’s day was done. She couldn’t believe how quickly three hours had passed by. Robbie happily instructed her to take the rest of the day off after the informative tour. She was somewhat disappointed that her first day was so short, but it couldn’t have been done without Robbie who, unfortunately, was wrapped up in meetings from the afternoon onward.
She slung her black blazer over her arm. This time in the early afternoon, the streets were even more crowded.
She opened up her ears to the surrounding conversations that swarmed in the air. It was a bad habit, but she knew it was unbreakable. As she headed back to the subways, she listened to the arguing couples, watched the lovers kiss, and dodged pleas of the food vendors. It was a completely different place than what she was used to– frightening yet inviting.
Gia’s apartment was still a few blocks away, as she exited the subway platform. Her pounding feet were not going to carry her much further, so she began to promenade around the block. Not far into the distance, she saw the park from earlier in the morning.
Gia ventured into the park’s entrance and took a few glances around. The trees were even more beautiful up close. The people back home thought New York couldn’t be a place where one could enjoy living, but those were the same people too afraid to leave Minnesota. Just two years prior, she was that person– that person who couldn’t fathom moving to new world like New York. However, comfort zones are hard for Gia to believe in anymore.
She plopped down on the nearest bench and slid her thin, leather portfolio over her thighs. Running her fingers over the textured fabric, she took note of how she didn’t open it once during her first day on the job.
Gently gliding her fingers underneath, she parted the magnetic clip and opened it. Gia stared momentarily at the tools that she had packed in a hurry this morning.
Only a sketchbook and two pencils.
As she let down her wavy hair, she was thankful that she did not have to open up her portfolio in front of Robbie. The embarrassment would have been beyond her. It was typical of her– prepared yet not prepared at all.
She wasn’t sure why, but she felt the need to scrap the chipped lead against the paper. Scribbling away, she was frustrated with the poor attempt at what was supposed to be a scenic sketch of the lake in front of her.
A few more tired scribbles, followed by several brushes from the eraser, she had given up. Gia figured she would rather be in her cold apartment than out here failing miserably at what would seem like a natural Drawing 101 assignment. As soon as she stood up, the utensils rolled down out of her lap and into the park’s walkway.
It only took one and a half steps for her to regret looking before she leaped out to pick up her mess– crashing into a passerby. The jogger dodged and hopped over Gia’s hunched over frame. Her jaw dropped, as she watched him eat the concrete.
“Oh my God! I’m so sorry!” she exclaimed, hurrying to his aid.
“Eh, you’re all good. I wasn’t really watching where I was going,” he sighed, sitting up and dusting himself off.
Gia hurried over to aid the man, but soon paused mid-reach. He lifted his back from the ground and rested his arms on his knees. After playfully shaking his head, he looked up at his assailant and let his smile fade. A strange lull overcame the two of them, and a cool wind passed in the air. Gia moved the curls that brushed over her face, continuing to scrutinize at the person examining her. The side of his arm was badly scrapped, and several hints of blood surfaced to drip.
Gia was suddenly flushed in the face, and she turned away to stare at the sidewalk. She wanted to help him, but it was as though her blood turned into cement.
A cheeky smile came back to him, and he remarked, “Don’t worry. I promise I won’t sue you.”
Once she heard his voice again, she unlocked eyes with the pavement and glanced at his brightly colored sneakers.
“I’m so sorry,” Gia murmured.
He chuckled while coming to his feet, and she took note of how very fit he was underneath all of the Under Armour apparel.
While dusting off the bits of gravel, she laced her fingers anxiously as he laughed, “This happens more often then you think.”
She took a step back and frantically scanned the ground. He followed her line of sight before noticing the tools across the pavement. Quickly, he picked up the pencils and erasers. Wanting to tell him that he didn’t have to help, she stood and watched him in silence instead.
“These are yours, I presume?” he smirked again.
Gia slowly opened her sweaty palm and took the items. She mouthed a thank you to him.
Running his fingers through his dank, short brown hair, he asked, “How are you holdin’ up over there?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered, clenching tightly onto the sketching tools.
“Maybe you should take a seat,” he said with less vigor, as he stared at her trembling hands.
“No, I’ll be fine. It’s just… I haven’t felt this alive in such a long time,” she sighed.
He tilted his head and stared at her in bewilderment, “Alive?”
“Mmm hmm,” she admitted, now with a smile on her face.
His brows were even closer together, and Gia was quick to slip back into her reserved nature.
“I best get going,” he grumbled.
Before she could think of a few more ways to slip away from this awkward encounter, he was already jogging away. Gia watched as he drifted off into the distance, but once she noticed that he had looked back, she panicked and took off.
She raced back to her apartment building, and briefly greeted the lazing security guard before slipped into the closing elevator.
“Floor?” the elderly man asked, with a finger ready to press a faded button for her.
“Top floor, please,” Gia whispered.
The old man furrowed his brows as he pressed the number thirteen. It felt like the elevator was taking forever traveling from floor to floor. Finally, the elderly passenger exited on the ninth floor. Once the doors had opened to the thirteenth, Gia quickly stepped out. She waved her magnetic key to open the door and was instantly struck by the high winds. She was at the top of the building, and everything within a five-mile radius was visible.
Walking dangerously close to the edge of the platform she turned to take a glimpse of the nearby park she had just fled. Several joggers ran through the winding trails and sidewalks.
She pinched her lips together and closed her eyes. Gia trembled again. As she opened her eyes, tears streamed down her cheeks. The edge was familiar and inviting until her cellphone sounded off.