Albert saw her run past the window of the cafe.
He waited for her to run in the other direction, but she never returned.
Since that day, Albert has come back to this same cafe, sitting in the same seat next to the window for hours at a time, hoping to get just one more glimpse of her just to reassure himself that someone so beautiful does exist, if only for a fleeting moment.
The moment was not a shared moment in time between two strangers, a boy and a girl.
It was Albert’s.
The moment was for him, and him alone.
He tried to imagine why she would run so fast, clutching her purse the way she had.
There wasn’t much past the cafe in that direction, just a dry cleaners and a small convenient store that was more dust than product.
But she hadn’t returned.
He imagined that one day, soon, she would run past the windows once more, back in the direction from which she originally came, with a handful of clothing and a small stack of change from the store clerk, a wild look of satisfaction in her eyes and perhaps an aura of optimism that would suggest she’d experienced any number of uncertainties, any number of chances to smile at anyone in the world who would care to look, only to succeed over and over again at being herself, at being beautiful.
He imagined that she would get thirsty on her run back, that she would enter the cafe through the open door, throwing back her hair at the sudden relief of the cool air within, that she would place her belongings on the chair in the corner, the one empty beside Albert, and she would dash to the counter and order a drink a cool drink, with extra ice and whip cream, and she would sip it and sit in the empty chair, the one beside Albert, and smile at him the way that only pretty girls smiled at anyone who appreciated the beautiful things in life.
He imagined what he would say to her, when he opened his mouth, already feeling dry and the words caught in his throat.
He imagined he would tell her — .