Barbara hated the City, always felt like she was lost in the crowd. She hadn’t even wanted to come down, but her father insisted she go. That’s the way Barbara saw it.
“You have to, Barbara, what if she’s there? She’ll never come home if she sees me.”
Barbara loved her father, but sometimes his logic was fading along with his mind in his twilight years. Nevertheless, Barbara soon found herself on a bus to the City, in the hopes of finding her sister after almost twenty years.
Barbara wondered if she’d even recognize Nicole. Or, likewise, if Nicole would know who she was. She had only been ten when Nicole left their home.
Nicole, the older, “wiser” sister, who fell in with HIM at the age of eighteen. At least she’d waited until she was an adult, legally, to run away with a stranger. But when the stranger also believes he’ll be reincarnated into the Anti-Christ, you have to wonder just exactly how “wise” your sister is.
Barbara took the train down early morning on a Sunday. She held the letter close to her chest and read it on the way down.
“Dear Grandpa (I guess),
I want you to know that I love you even though we’ve never met. My mother talked about you once, just before she went to sleep the other night. I’m twelve now, and I don’t think we’ll ever leave the city. I don’t know my dad, but maybe one day we’ll meet. I have to go, my mother doesn’t know I’m writing this, but if you’re ever in the Big Apple keep an eye out for a short kid with glasses and blond hair that sticks up in the back. (That’s me.)
She named him Peter, after his grandfather. Barbara couldn’t help wonder if Peter knew his father was crazy, that he was supposed to be the anti-Christ. They’d heard that Nicole’s Stranger friend had committed suicide about thirteen years ago. There was a story in the paper about it, almost in the fiction section it’d been so bizarre. Ritualistic suicide, plunging to his death on the West Side.
The paper said he’d left behind a pregnant wife, Nicole, who claimed the child didn’t have a father. Nuts, you know.
At that time, their father was too angry to want to talk to Nicole. But with age came oncoming Death, looming at the corners, and so, recently, after Peter’s letter, Barbara was dispatched to find Nicole for one last “hello”.
She ate in a diner first thing, then headed towards the west side, the address from the letter wasn’t too far from Grand Central. At the Columbus Circle, Barbara stopped to admire the parts of the City she didn’t even imagine before, the lovely people, the scenery, the park just around the corner.
She turned to head north, and found Nicole staring back at her, tears in her eyes.
Barbara raised her hand in a brief wave, then the light turned green and the crowd took over Nicole, hiding her, brushing her past without another chance to say hello.
At Nicole’s address, no one was home, so Barbara would wait. She didn’t hate the city any more.