Promise to remember
Imagine visiting John in New York City after not seeing him for years
as requested by anon
The knock came quietly first, and then there was silence followed by a thud from the wall furthest away from the white, double doors. And if it hadn’t been for the opening shutter of peepholes in the neighbouring doors you would’ve thought John had lived alone on the floor of seven apartments.
The second thud that came was louder and far more dense than before, this time followed by a number of locks that clanged up and down the walls as they were opened, and once again, a deliberating silence. What closely tailed it was the unwilling latch of a doorknob that revealed John’s worn face in fractions. Two thirds to check who stood on the opposite side, and finally a whole that’s as woven with confusion as a scarf. It melts quickly but receives none likewise.
He looks at you, with a half-smile that seems to have fallen asleep on his droopy-eyed face, before it twitches back to the moment and he crinkles his nose. You catch a glimpse of his teeth, which poke out from between his thin lips and look no less crooked than they did when he was fifteen. Your stomach twists. John’s hair isn’t Beatle cut nor brushed up like it was when you’d known him. This wasn’t ‘John’. Or maybe it was, your insides shrink when you realise you want to reach out and run your fingers through it.
From behind him comes a heavenly, white glow that radiates from the room with the open plan view that had to be at least three of the Dakota’s apartments combined. From what you can see, the main room walls are covered with magazine pictures, articles framed, yet among them some taped up and together at continually fraying tears. The walls didn’t end at the walls, they went outward, to a dream of somewhere else that consisted of every decade in the past thirty he’d been alive.
Your gaze flicks back to his face that’s still studying yours in awe, as he attempts to draw some form of eye contact, but is unable when your sight drops to the floor and tears begin to pool in the corners of your eyes uneasily. The strip of white light that illuminates the floor beside you is cut short when John shuts the door behind him and steps closer. His hand falls loose of the round, gilt doorknob only to twitch unsurely by his side.
You visually swallow, trying to gulp down the lump that formed solid in your throat, and blinking back your hot tears when you realised the eyes that watched, hidden, and getting hell of a show.
“I’m sorry, John.” you let out a shaky breath, “I should go, I shouldn’t have come here.” But before you can turn around fully he snatches at your wrist and jerks you back as you were, not letting go. His mouth hangs open as though he’s about to say something, though the only thing that follows is silence and the distant thudding and dings of the Dakota’s elevators, each side of the building.
“I…-how does a walk sound?” John solicited with utter confidence and a visual lack of side thought.
In the terse lull of New York traffic, the barren hallway was briefly silent, whether for a second, when you nodded John began to walk again, and his healed boots clanged loudly on the stone floor — at once causing you to wonder whether or not he’d been expecting the company — he pushed the elevator button and adhered to the whirring call of the rising lift, squeezing your hand tightly when the doors slid open.
The lobby it revealed seconds later has all the corporate taste for extensively opulent items without the slightest touch of personality, all generously decorated because they were in themselves expensive. Maybe it was deliberate. The floor was tiled in fine marble, which made every step under a slight level echo. Even the door hinges were engraved with swirls and elegant designs, you’d noticed, small, rosy-cheeked cherubs and sheets of rose linen that were engraved in the repeating gold.
It seemed to domino turnly into a quiet chatter, and then plunge into a sudden, cut, silence, that once again pitched into uneasy whispers when yours and John’s foot crossed the border of the Dakota’s welcoming gates.
The sound of feet on wet paving stones is almost lost against the splashing of the traffic, only the click of high heels still clear. The usual smell of the fumes is dampened by the hazy drops, and it’s nothing different for New York. You shiver into the ageless, beige, trench coat. John squeezes your hand once more as he steps over a fissure that brims a batter of mud and slush, and trickles a pathway through indentation that runs along the perimeter of grey cobble.
Those with umbrellas take wider berths of one another, the rest take care to duck when the spokes come their way. You stared short, as John, beside you, moved slightly, and his words ended in something that both felt and sounded like a smothered insult. “You liked Hamburg though, didn’t you?”
And although the syllables have left his lips seconds ago, they linger regardless, impulsive and rattling inside your skull like playground taunts.
“Of course,” you lied, “why did you think otherwise?”
John shrugs off the recognised, legitimate question as a passing conversation, he sniffs and draws his hands deeper into his pockets as though he’s trying to shrink down inside his jacket, away from your urging stare. You hook your arm inside of his hidden one. “I didn’t think you liked it, you know, you never called afterward,” his breath caught in his throat, selecting his words so cautiously it became suspicious, “or wrote for that matter, I thought you’d fled from the rent-man or summit.”
You sigh, “if I were to miss anything, John, it wouldn’t be Hamburg. Not after everything it brought onto you, I think, perhaps, if it hadn’t been for Hamburg I would’ve wrote, or even called if Woolton had a telephone box.” Bare trees line the next avenue and the following, crying bygone oranges and yellows and xanthous ambers and acidic bisques that crumbled under the whispy touch of a bustling wind.
“So’s that where you’re livin’ now? Not the best part of Liverpool like, Woolton.”
Your bitter face melts in dichotomy to the cold temperature. “Yeah, Woolton,” your face returns to a neutral grimace, “are you lonely in New York?”
And perhaps it had felt like too much of an invasive question. Whether or not it was good to catch up on life through such a bitter topic, John seemed to recoil at the query, and then inhaled so deeply his threads rose along with his chest and fell back quickly. Clenching the inside material of his pockets, he began to speak again. “No,”
Though it was a concise statement, it was left oddly open ended, as though unsure of the answer, or not comfortable enough in his latter words to speak them. Shortly enough, the end of the avenue was approaching, so fast, in fact, neither of you had began to break out of the whipped up silence to notice the plain of washed-out green that fabricated a thin, ivory foil which melted along the edges and floated above the surface of high reaching blades of grass.
John falls short of a halt that makes his shoes grit on the pavement, before jerking his hands out of his pockets and wrapping his fingers tightly about your own. He throws his shoulders up at the interaction to readjust the jacket that hung loosely — and wrongly — on them. “I don’t feel lonely, not anymore.” He says, squeezing your hands again; this being a quick pattern he’d adopted over the last half hour.
“John…” you trial off, shuffling the toes of your oxfords to the centre of a tile beneath you. “I can’t stay, I wasn’t even supposed to see you.” A gust of wind that whips itself on a neighbouring building hits the pair of you, blowing bunched up hair in all directions. “I’ll see you another day, okay?” Now it was your turn to squeeze John’s long fingers.
“Then I will live to see another day.”