A Day in Manhattan

That morning the city was flooded with young warm light. It brightened the grayest stones and made the new leaves shine like jewels against a blue sky that seemed to have deepened to infinity overnight. Maggie was filing her nails almost voluptuously, gazing out her window on streets where the customary gasoline fumes were for once instantly dissolved into the sweet air. Today, no need to scramble to get anything done, the morning was hers to loll about in, and only when it came to a close would she start attending to social needs. Her little flat that often felt so close as to make her long for country spaces now seemed almost boundless, open to the air and light of an April morning that had brought spring at last — better late than never.

At lunch time she decided to scramble two eggs and make fresh coffee. Later, dressing to go out, she thought that the day demanded something blue: say a silk turquoise blouse over her evenly faded jeans. Using a fluid that smelled remotely of gasoline, she carefully removed a trace of grease from her blouse before slipping it on. She ruffled her red-blond hair, buffed her nails one last time, and walked down to the street.

She had put on pink flats that matched her nails. She felt good and knew she looked good, which made her feel even better. Close to her front door, an old Chrysler was parked; someone had evidently spilled gasoline while filling its tank from a jerry can. The pool it made glittered in the generous light like a crystalized rainbow.

Nothing, it seemed, could look ugly or drab on this blue day, although of course the city traffic went on its own aggressive way and she had to scramble when she crossed a little late at the intersection. But even that, even having to scramble only added to her sense of resurgent youthfulness. The guys at the corner who liked to look hard as nails smiled at her like kids on vacation. She sailed down the sidewalk like a ketch scudding across blue water under a brisk wind. She said hello to people she’d never seen. She felt close to the whole world, its creatures strong or frail, the hard city masonry, the blinding light bouncing from the back windows of cars washed and unwashed, all it seemed enjoying their ration of gasoline.

Never mind — she didn’t want to think about things like gasoline or where it came from or how it was wasted. She thought instead about a man met last night in the scramble of a dance party — he’d danced with her and wouldn’t let her go, she hadn’t minded, he was so light on his feet and supple as a clown. It was for him in fact that she’d done her nails and put on her pink shoes and blue blouse. She must get her errand done fast, it was getting close to the time of meeting him, and in spite of past disappointments her heart sailed up into the blue afternoon sky, starting now to fade slightly, its deep blue turning to a golden blue that was enough to bring tears to her eyes.

She hurried on, past the gasoline pumps and the convenience stores till she got to Banana Republic, close to their meeting place, where she could buy him a nice spring scarf. No scramble in the store, she was glad to see. She made her purchase and stopped to check her clothes and hair in a store mirror, then hurried back out into the inspiring light.

She had to scramble again at another intersection; this time she made the light. Two blocks uptown, one across, close enough, in a not unpleasant aura of gasoline. Would he like her blouse and hair and shoes? His name was Blue.