Call of the city

Last Wednesday’s writing prompt was the city.

The city called her with its promises of sophistication. Come to me, it said, drink me in, walk my streets, and you will become one of my people.

She lengthened her stride and took to the sidewalks, briskly risking intersections so all would know I’ve got places to go. She flattened her smile into cool hardness, narrowed wide eyes to absorb the light, not reflect it. She wore all black and never looked to the sky, never caught anyone’s eye except with deliberation and purpose. The city is mine, she thought.

In dark underground stations her nostrils filled with moist grit; perspiration gathered at the back of her neck, the base of her spine, and under her arms. She kept one hand on the strap of her messenger bag and looked straight ahead, not flinching at shadows that scurried and scuttled through the century-old rails.

Inside the bright cold car she stood with her back to the doors, one arm raised to the shaft of silver metal, the other resting still atop her messenger bag. It won’t throw me off balance, she told herself, and allowed her body to sway its momentum toward the stops whose names she had savored in books and magazines. When the sweating, grimy-headed older men looked at her she looked away. When the young ones looked away she studied them, men and women both, the ones whose effortless belonging wrote itself over their garments and breathed from their pores like Calvin Klein. Someday, she thought.

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