More About Mina

Steven Fromm


       Mina was easy to get to. When Jackson got home he opened a Sam Adams, fired up his laptop, went to Google and punched in the Web address. Crystal Voyeurs popped up with the standard introduction page, inviting viewers inside for "an intimate look at the lives and loves of sexy young ladies." There was a large picture showing a young woman sitting on the edge of a tub, dressed in a short white terry cloth robe, legs crossed, her fingers testing the water as it streamed out of the faucet. Jackson clicked to the second teaser page, which had thumbnails of the six girls: Veronica, Stacey, Ashley, Courtney, Britney and Mina.

       So the rumors at work were true. He’d first heard them that morning. His initial reaction was to dismiss them. Denial trumped neurons. But he’d had the afternoon to think about it, and reality eventually trumps denial.

       Jackson took a closer look at the picture on his screen. Mina's hair seemed shorter and darker than the rich brown he remembered. It was almost black. She was hitting the makeup. Her red lips seemed swollen and pouty, and precision eyeliner jolted her irises into bull’s-eyes. He had to smile. It was just like Mina to use her real first name. She was almost always upfront with just about everything to the point of obliviousness, a dense power neutralizing the forces of consequence and gravity. It was a gift.

       The second teaser page gave more information. All the girls had video cams stationed in various parts of their residences, and the cams were always running.  

       The thumbnails on the second page were slightly larger. Each one was hyper-linked to a bio. He clicked on Mina's picture. The screen went dead black, then three red-lettered words floated up from the darkness: More about Mina. He clicked on the words and a new picture of Mina came up. She was sitting on her couch in a short black dress, bare legs crossed, her right foot, in a black high-heel, showing above the coffee table. Underneath the picture, Mina had replied to several stock questions: Last book read (Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill); favorite band (The Cramps); five things she couldn't live without (coffee, New York, summer dusks, her Siamese cat "Winchester," and a drawer full of "secret toys"); and last, the five things to be found in her bedroom (that drawer of "secret toys;" piles of books; her laptop; a "very special bed" and "the freckles on my backside.")

       Jackson recalled her fondness for The Cramps and Winchester, who ruined two of his sweaters, but he didn't recall any secret drawer of toys or any freckles on her backside. He definitely would have remembered the freckles.

       "That's showbiz," he said. But he whispered it, as if a loud tone would tip Mina off to his presence. He was a voyeur already. At the end of the bio, there was a paragraph mentioning that Mina had cams in her living room and bedroom, but not her bathroom. Even Mina had limits.  He clicked again on her picture, and the order form came up. There were several options, both weekly and monthly. He decided to go with the weekly. He punched in his Amex card number, then patiently sipped his beer as his computer downloaded the link to Mina's place.

       Another picture came up, one of Mina at her door, waving him in. He clicked on a blue arrow underneath and found himself looking in on Mina's living room. It hadn't changed. The cam must have been on top of her TV, or the little shelf above the TV, showing a wide-angled view of the coffee table, the light green couch flanked by two walnut end tables, and further to the back, the opening to Mina's little kitchen. The place was still. Jackson was wondering if he really had a live feed when Winchester sauntered onto the screen, deftly walking on the back of the couch from left to right, then stopping, stretching and jumping onto the middle cushion. He burrowed in for a nap. The place was still again. 

       Jackson started thinking of all the other fools who’d paid to sit in front of their screens watching an ill-tempered Siamese cat napping in the living room of a woman who may have been out dining with friends or watching a good film. He thought about logging off, but clicked on the blue arrow instead. The screen snapped to a wide-angled shot of her bedroom. Again, familiar territory: the four-poster queen bed her mother had given her and to the right a low, long cherry wood bureau that matched the bed. In a far corner off screen was a small desk where Jackson had spent many an hour scribbling away in his notebooks as Mina slept, the soft chime of her breathing and the scratch of his pen the only necessary sounds in the universe. But the picture on the wall above the bed had changed from a reprint of Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles to a black-and-white, framed photo of a nude woman lying on her stomach in bed, the rich, full globes of her ass arching up. Jackson had seen it in various stores for years. It wasn't something Mina would normally put up in her apartment. More showbiz, he thought. But this time he didn't say it.

       He decided to stay logged on for a while, but refused to sit there staring at Winchester's limp body. He went into his living room and watched the Yankee game, returning to the computer between innings to see if there was any activity. Even as he watched the game grinding before him, his mind drifted back to Mina. He should have been upset about the Web site, but he wasn't. He had dated her, been intimate with her. But the relationship never progressed to the next stage, whatever that was supposed to be after the initial attraction and early lust. What he remembered was being drawn to her the first time he saw her at the office copy machine. He'd always gone for off-beat looks, and Mina was off-beat, with her Betty Page bangs, wide dark brown eyes, wicked white skin and insistence on wearing an array of funky dark clothing. Jackson often described her as a blend of Goth girl meets Anthropologie. She had the requisite tatts: a St. Francis on the small of her back and the outline of a dolphin on her left shoulder blade. She lived for film noir and was on a lifelong crusade to collect every Mission of Burma bootleg she could find.  Mina had come onboard as a proof-reader, but like everyone else at the magazine, including Jackson, she hoped to publish some work of her own.

       Jackson recalled their relationship in the flow of compressed images that are the mute language of recollection: walking hand-in-hand down Howard Street in the Village at dusk, the amber sun hitting the sides of brownstones, their fire escapes casting sharp shadows up the walls like surgical graffiti; drifting in the elongated moments of a lazy Sunday morning at Bruno's, nibbling away on corn muffins and black Russian coffee; their mutual struggle in twisted sheets, her eyelids clamping down so hard when she came that a single tear shot out of the corner of her left eye like a newborn, streaking down and disappearing in her ear.

       There were these and more, building like a crescendo through four months and thenflattening like a projectile surrendering to gravity. Jackson wasn’t sure when it turned, or why. It just did. A judgment had been made, Delphic and final. The fluid reflexes of their interplay gradually withered. The inside jokes that formed the inner Aramaic of their relationship grew stale and remote. They became actors with ever-fading interest in the plot, dialogue and outcome. They started spending the odd night apart, then two nights, then three. Several weeks later, Mina said she was going to spend the weekend with her sister in Norwalk. But on that Saturday, he saw her go into a vintage clothing store on Sullivan with a girlfriend. A city of 8 million people, and he found her when she was supposed to be in Connecticut. Jackson took it as a sign. He couldn't take it as anything else. Two weeks after that, they met for drinks. Mina asked for a sour apple martini. Jackson ordered a club soda. Before the drinks arrived, she looked him in the eye and suggested it was over. But it wasn't a suggestion. It was a verdict. And Jackson knew better than to appeal.

       They remained cordial at work. Jackson kept up a good game face, but in the first month or so after the split, he constantly fought his curiosity over what she was doing and who she was seeing, if anyone. And then she was gone. Just like that. She gave two weeks notice. There was no announcement, but the information eventually worked its way around to Jackson. She didn't have another job lined up. She told anyone who asked that she would temp and pursue other interests. Jackson intended to stop by her desk to say goodbye, but didn't. He sent an email. "Good luck," he said. "Thanks," she replied. That was it.

       During a break in the third inning, Jackson came back to the computer to find the connection broken. He logged back on. Mina's living room and bedroom were still empty. He went back to the game, slumping low on the couch, and dozed off. He woke up at the end of the sixth inning. He went back to the computer. The screen was moving. Mina was in her living room, sitting on her couch, sorting through mail. Winchester sat beside her, cleaning himself. She looked about the same as her photo on the teaser page, perhaps a little thinner, dressed in a long-sleeve black blouse and tight jeans. She sat back, propped her bare feet on the coffee table and started reading a letter. Jackson noticed that she never looked into the camera. He didn't know if that was part of the approach, or the fact that it had been there for so long she'd forgotten about it. She didn't move for at least five minutes. Jackson alternated between feeling like a fool and eagerly anticipating what she would do next, no doubt the precise feelings of the other 10,000 dimwits who were looking in on the same action.

       After another few minutes Mina got up and walked off screen. Jackson clicked on the blue arrow. She was in the bedroom. With her back to the camera she pulled her blouse over her head and flung it onto the bed. The white canvas of her bare back almost glowed in the slight distortion of the screen. She put on a white t-shirt, then yanked down her jeans. She was wearing a black thong. She put on a pair of black shorts, then disappeared into the bathroom. She came out a few minutes later, dabbing at her face with a towel. She tossed the towel on the bed along with something that looked like the crumpled-thong and ambled nonchalantly off camera. He clicked on the blue arrow. In another 90 seconds or so she plopped down on the couch with an open bottle of Ommegang and started running her fingers up and down Winchester's back. The cat arched its back. She took a long pull from the Ommegang, set it down on the table and picked up the remote. She aimed straight ahead, pressed a button, then settled back. Every few seconds she aimed and pressed the remote. There was no sound.

       Mina seemed to be staring right at Jackson. Every few minutes she would raise the remote and click. His eyes started wandering. He noticed the same funky black and white picture of the City Reliquary Museum on the wall behind her, just to the right of the kitchen. Just below it were the handle bars of a red rusted Huffy bike that she bought from a thrift shop on Baxter Street. She rode it home and never used it again. But it did look good in the little room. Mina stretched. The remote was on the coffee table, so she'd found something watchable. Probably some noir thing on AMC. The cat had wandered off. Jackson' eyes shifted to the end table on her left. He leaned closer in when he saw the tortoise shell frame. He knew it was the same one because it had a large chip on the top left corner--Winchester's work when he rubbed up against it during one of his nocturnal wanderings. Jackson’s nose practically touched the screen. The image seemed atomized. He pulled back and could just make out the basic outline of the image in the picture frame. It was of Mina and Jackson in Bryant Park last autumn. Mina had been goofing around with her iPhone. She asked a passerby to take a picture of them. Jackson had moved close up against her back, wrapped his arms around her and pressed the side of his face against hers. A perfect moment peeled from time. Their faces were open and clear, their eyes wide and direct, their lips floating on airless mirth. They looked happy, at ease, completely in the moment.

       Jackson downloaded the photo that Mina had sent to him, printed it out on some good quality paper, then went out and bought two tortoise shell frames. Their mild yellow and brown colors complimented the soft autumnal light in the picture. After the split, Jackson had taken the picture off his bureau and stashed it in a drawer. He presumed Mina would do the same. He kept staring at it on his screen, trying to distinguish their faces, but they were nothing more than tiny clusters of flesh-toned pixels. At first he felt flattered that she would keep it, but it didn't last long. He knew Mina. She wasn't the sentimental type. It had been icily demoted from a record of a happy, intimate moment to a prop.  

       He fought the urge to log off. Mina picked up the remote, aimed at him and clicked several times. She absently tapped the remote against her thigh as she watched the screen between clicks. Her air of obliviousness, the illusion of her invulnerability compelled him to act, to do something. Jackson picked up the phone, then put it down. He’d deleted her number right after the break up, but still knew it by heart, which angered him. He picked up the phone again and dialed. Jackson had no idea if she had changed it in the last few months, but he'd bet she hadn't. It was the kind of detail Mina wouldn't bother with if she wasn't forced to.

       The phone rang once. There was no reaction. On the second ring, Mina looked over at the phone on the end table to her left. On the third ring she reached for it. A chill went up Jackson' back. It was as if he was reaching through the screen. She looked at the number. The expression on her face didn’t change. Not even a little. She pressed the little screen with her thumb.


       For some reason Jackson expected her to sound different when she was online. A deeper, sultry voice wouldn't have surprised him. He waited for a few seconds, swallowing the reflexive urge to hang up.

       "Mina? Hi."

       "Hello." Her voice was flat and noncommittal. He watched her on the screen. She was looking toward the TV, but he could tell she wasn't focused on it.  

       "It's Jackson," he said.

       "Jackson," she said, running her fingers through her bangs.

       "You know,” he said. “Jackson.”  He’d be damned if he was going to say his last name.

       "I know," she said.  She reached out for the remote, which she had put down on the couch, and aimed it at the TV.  She either turned it off or muted it.   

       "So," she said, "how are you?"

       "Fine," Jackson said. "You?"

       "Good, thanks," she said.

       Jackson didn't know where to go with it. He hadn't talked to her for months, hadn't thought about her much, or least not all that much, and now there they were on the phone.  It was as if he’d kicked in a door that had been locked from the inside. He really didn’t know if he wanted to enter. He’d kicked it in because the lock pissed him off.  

       "What’re you up to?" he finally asked. 

       She sat back and propped a foot onto her coffee table. Jackson envisioned the viewers watching her, wondering who she was talking to.

       "This and that," she said. "You know. Hanging in." There was another pause. Winchester started rubbing up against her side. He could hear the purring through the phone. "You still at the magazine?" she asked.

       "Yep. Same thing."

       "Usual suspects?"


       "Same crew?" she asked.

       "Pretty much," he said. "Terri's gone. PR firm. Todd just quit."

       "Where'd he go?"

       "Nowhere. You know. Just one audition away."

       She gave a little laugh. There was silence. She had both feet up on the coffee table, her knees sticking up and obscuring the lower half of her face. He could see her eyes, but really couldn't read her expression. 



       "What am I wearing?"

       She was staring straight into the camera, straight through the screen at Jackson. He looked down at the keyboard and pressed the phone tighter to his sweaty ear. 

       "Excuse me?" he asked.

       "What am I wearing?"

       "What are you talking about?"

       "Jackson. What am I wearing?"

       "Black shorts, white t-shirt."

       "And where am I?"

       "You're sitting on your couch watching TV, with Winchester."

       There was another pause. Jackson didn't feel embarrassed. He felt relieved. He was going to have to bring it up somehow, and artful segues had never been his strength.

       "Congratulations," she said.


       "I see you're an official member of the Mina fan club."

       "Or just another customer of Crystal Voyeurs."

       "With a special bonus."


       "You have a one-on-one connection."

       "Ah. Good. Do I have to pay extra?"

       There was another silence. 

       "Your hair," he said, in a bid to change the subject. "It looks different."

       Jackson watched as she ran her fingers through her hair, from the bangs to the back, like a nervous tick.

       "It's a lot darker than it used to be," she said. "Almost black. And maybe a few inches shorter."

       "Looks nice," he offered.

       "No. Not really. It's kind of severe. But it's not forever. There's a reason."

       "For your hair?"

       "Sure. For out here," she said, making a small waving motion with her hand, index finger slightly extended.


       "Yep. Most of the girls are blondes. They think most guys prefer blondes. But I wanted to do something a bit different. You know - "

       " - counter-intuitive," he said.

       "Right. Kind of a marketing thing."

       "Is it working?"

       "I guess so," she said. Jackson saw her shrugging on the screen. "I get a lot of hits, at least." 

       He was going to ask about the economics of it, if she got paid by the hit or the percentage of a monthly take. He didn't really want to know, but he didn't know how to bring up the picture thing. Mina solved it by taking the lead. 

       "So," she asked, "what's up?" She was staring at the camera again, dead-center at him.

       "Well, it's going to sound a bit weird," he said.

       "Don't worry about weird," she said. "I've heard it all."

       "People contact you?"

       "Sure. There's an email hyperlink at the bottom of your screen."

       Jackson checked. There was:

       "What do they say?" Jackson asked.

       "You don't want to know," she answered, giving off a chuckle. It didn't sound natural. Mina was not a chuckler.

       "That bad?" he asked.

       "That bad," she answered. She crossed her legs and held her elbows tight against her side. "So. Don't worry. About weird."

       He decided to take her at her word. The emails probably pushed the weirdness quotient off any scale he would recognize.

       "It's about the picture."


       "Our picture. The one to your right."

       Mina looked to her right, which was his left.

       "No. Wait. Sorry. It's to your left. The screen thing's got me a bit confused."

       Mina looked over at their picture.

       "Oh yeah," she said. "That."

       "I recognized the frame."

       "Bryant Park," she said.  It came out in a monotone.

       "Right, Bryant Park," Jackson said.

       "You don't like it here, right?" she asked.

       "Something like that," he said. Jackson didn't want to say he found it upsetting. It sounded too feminine. "I think it's, you know, kind of disturbing."

       "You do?" She sounded a bit surprised. "Can you, like, see our faces on your screen? I didn't even think of that."

       "Well. Not really. You can kind of make out bodies. General shapes of two people, but nothing specific," he said. "It's just. I don't know — "

       "I hear you," she said. "I don't think I'd like it either."

       Mina was never one for pettiness. It was too emotional. 

       "So could you put it away in a drawer or throw it out or whatever?" Jackson asked.

       "Throw it out?"

       "Or stick it in a drawer," Jackson repeated. "Whatever."

       He watched as she reached over and picked up the picture. Jackson felt blood rushing to his face. An unknown number of cyber freaks across the nation were now wondering about the picture.

       "This is an awful expensive frame," she said, hefting its weight in her palm. "It would be a shame to waste it."

       Those are the casualties of war, Jackson thought.

       "That's ok," he said. "There are other frames, and other days."


       "Nothing," he said. "Just a joke."

       Mina reached over and put the frame back on the table, but this time face down. She'd probably get 300 emails on it.

       "Let's do this," she said. "Why don't I give it back?"

       "Give it back?"

       "Sure," she said. "Didn't you have another one? A matching one?"

       How nice of you to remember, he thought.

       "Yeah, somewhere around here," he said. "So you want to stick it in the mail?"

       "No way," she said, stretching. Her legs were now straight on the coffee table, close together. "I hate packaging shit for the mail. Why don't we meet?"

       Jackson didn't want to sound caught off guard, so he heard himself agreeing. He could have said no, but that would have required an explanation of some sort.  He didn’t want to scramble for something that would end up sounding weak and evasive, and he wasn’t about to tell her the truth.  So he assented. As they worked out the specifics of when and where, he felt a building swell of disgust. He didn’t know why, but it was there. Disgust at himself. After he hung up, he watched her for a few more moments as she played with the remote. When she got up to go to the bedroom, he didn't click on the blue arrow. He watched Winchester licking his paws for a few minutes, alone on the couch. 

       When the cat sauntered away, he logged off.



       Mina had chosen to meet at Quinn's, a small deli near 39th and Lex. Jackson was relieved it wasn't Bruno's. He hadn't been there since their split, and didn't want to deal with the memories or mixed signals. Since he wanted her to be waiting for him, he made sure he was 10 minutes late, but when he stepped into the door he scanned the tiny seating area to no avail. He ordered a small coffee with milk and sat down with his steaming mug. He didn’t feel like squinting into his phone, so he stared out the window at passersby. After a few minutes he spotted an abandoned New York Times—an actual paper--two tables down and started rummaging through the sports section for the baseball news. Each time the door opened he forced himself to keep his head down and his eyes on the box scores. 

       After another 10 minutes, while in the midst of a speculative story on who would be the American League's next MVP, Jackson sensed her. Or more like smelled her. It was a familiar scent, something like distant violets. When he looked up she was standing two feet from the table with a trace of a smile on her lips.

       "Hey," he said, getting up.

       "Sorry I'm late," she said as she stepped toward him and gave him a light hug and brushed his cheek with her lips. "I just could not find a cab. I think there's fewer of them than a year ago. Do you think?"

       He shrugged. "Haven’t been counting."

       Mina slung her purse, which was more like a small black leather satchel, over the back of the chair. He noticed again how dark her hair was. She was wearing a tight pair of black jeans and a delicate, multi-colored pastel sweater with a white t-shirt underneath. She looked decidedly less Goth these days, and way more Anthropologie.

       "Can I get you something?" he said, nodding toward the counter.

       "I'll get it," she said. "I'll be right back."

       He neatly folded the Times, making sure all the sections were back in order. It gave his hands something to do. By the time he was finished, she had returned to the table with a dark iced coffee. She sat down, placed the coffee on a napkin, primly clasped her hands on the table and took a breath.

       "Well," she said, appraising him. "You look....thinner. The same. But thinner."

       "Really?" he said. "I hadn't noticed."

       "Of course not," she said with a laugh. "You see yourself every day."

       He chuckled back, but couldn't think of anything else to say. He didn't want to ask up front about the frame just yet. They each took delicate sips of their coffees.

       "Thanks for meeting me here," she said. "It's close to Grand Central, and I'm heading out in about 40 minutes."

       "Where to?"

       "Up to Fairfield," she said. "Connecticut."

       "What's in Connecticut?" He kept it as casual sounding as possible.

       "I'm looking at a property up there."

       "A property?"

       "Well, a condo. A nice one."

       "Wow," he said. "Business must be good."

       It was out before he could do anything about it. He picked up his mug and sipped so he wouldn't have to look at her. Mina looked down at her hands for a moment, then back up at him.

       "Yes," she said quietly. "Things are good."

       There was another silence. It was a good thing they had the coffees, which were more like props to distract them. Jackson knew he should say something conciliatory and harmless to get the conversation going again. It didn't really matter how it turned out, but he wanted it to end well.

       "I'm glad we could meet," he said, looking her full in the face to show he meant it.

       "So am I," she said after a fraction of hesitation. The three words came through a vague smile.

       "I always felt a bit bad that we never said goodbye before you left work," he said.

       "You didn't have to say goodbye," she said.

       "Excuse me?"

       "I was the one who was leaving," she said, stirring her iced coffee. "I was the goodbye-er. You were the goodbye-ee."

       "Is that some kind of rule?" he asked.

       "It's well established," she said.

       "Since when?"

       "Since right now," she said.

       They both smiled, but didn’t quite reach a laugh. It was enough. Jackson wanted to keep it going.

       "So you're about to become a property owner?"

       "Sure am," she said. "I've got it narrowed down to three units, and whether I want two bedrooms or three."

       "Why would you need three bedrooms?"

       "Resale value," she said. "My agent told me to go with more square footage. It holds value on the market better.”

       "A good realtor is worth his weight in gold," he affirmed.

       "Well, it wasn't my realtor who said that," she said. "When I said my agent I meant my lit agent. And it's a her. She knows a lot about investments."

       Jackson' hands tightened on his mug. It was involuntary.

       "You've got a lit agent?"

       "Yep." She looked at him and broke out a big smile. Her teeth were much whiter than he remembered. "I sold a book."

       Jackson blinked. "Wow," he said. "A book?"

       "I really can't believe it," she said. "Penbrook/VanGuard just snapped it right up."

       "A book?" Jackson repeated. "A novel?"

       "Well, no," she said. "More like a memoir."

       Jackson tried to remember her age. She was 24. Maybe 25 now. "A memoir," he said in as neutral a voice as he could muster.

       "It's not a conventional thing," she said. "It's about my business. It's about my adventures as a Net entrepreneur."

       "The voyeur thing?"

       "My business," she said quickly. "It's about building my business and all the weird, cool experiences I've had."

       Jackson realized there wasn't much he could say that would sound good, unless he decided to be agreeable to the point of fawning. He'd never been much on fawning, especially when there wasn't anything to gain.

       "When you say experiences, what do you mean?" he asked. "You mean stuff like the emails you get, guys trying to contact you?"

       "That's part of it, of course," she said. She wasn't looking at him. She was stirring her iced coffee. The cubes made a rhythmic clickety-clack. "It's about the whole thing. You know. Very first-person."

       "I'm sure it’ll be interesting," Jackson said.

       "My agent thinks it'll be huge," she said, looking up at him again.

       "I think she's right," he said. "That whole memoir genre thing is big, like an industry. In fact, it seems lately that it’s the only industry."

       His tone was dry to the point of contempt. He realized then that he wanted it to end badly. Ugliness would be much more satisfying.

       "Speaking of which," Mina said, "how's your book going?"

       Jackson couldn't help but smile. It was more than a nice comeback. It was a body blow.

       "It's still there," he said.

       "Still there, doing what, exactly?" she asked with a tight little smile. She was looking right at him.

       "I'm still shopping it around," he finally said.

       "Well, good luck with that," she said.

       He was about to say something pithy along the lines of re-writing it as a female, first-person memoir when she turned and reached behind her to the satchel on the back of her chair. She put the frame on the table. It still had the Bryant Park picture in it.  

       "As promised," she said. "Sorry about it being online."

       "No problem," he said. "You could have just thrown it out, though. You didn't have to bring it."

       "Really, it's no big deal," she said. "This is right on my way."

       She crumpled up her napkin and shoved it into her cup, which was half empty. The napkin blossomed brown from its lower half.

       "I've got to go," she said, looking at her watch. "I'm meeting my boyfriend at the station."

       Her tone was matter-of-fact, so he wasn't sure if this was supposed to be the decisive parting shot or just something that slipped out.

       "Anyone I know?" he asked as lightly as he could.

       "Nope," Mina said. "Definitely not one of our old crowd. He's an artist down in the Village."

       She looked at her watch.

       "Jesus," she said, rising quickly from her chair. "I really gotta go. I'm barely going to make this train.” She slung her pack and looked down at Jackson, who hadn't moved. He was looking at the picture. "Well," she said.

       Jackson snapped out of it and got to his feet. They exchanged the same half-hug and almost-air-kisses they had used when greeting each other. 

       "It was good seeing you," Jackson said.

       "Me too," Mina said. "Good luck on your book and stuff."

       "Good luck on yours," Jackson said, giving her as relaxed a smile as he could muster. "Don't miss your train."

       Jackson stood there, watching her move out the door and past the front window, out of sight. He knew he should be getting back to the office, but he couldn't get himself moving. Nothing seemed that urgent. He picked up the frame and set it on its stand. The moment was still there, perfectly preserved. Autumn in Bryant Park. The feel of her arms and shoulders as he stood behind her, embracing her, smiling for the camera. Jackson closed his eyes and imagined he could still smell the back of her neck.

       Without really thinking about it he stood up, snatched the picture from the table and walked out the door. It took him a few seconds to get his sense of direction and then he broke sharply toward Grand Central. He picked up his pace as he moved down Lex, almost running when he hit 42nd Street and turned left toward the station. He kept scanning the blurry stream of pedestrians for Mina, but didn’t spot her. 

       As he got closer to the station the fear that had started in the pit of his stomach seemed to spread up to his chest and throat and as he got into the enormous main chamber of the station he looked jerkily about, his eyes targeting anything that was female wearing black and tasteful pastels. The huge board flashing the train schedules hovered above him.  He was looking for the next departing New Haven Line train when he thought he saw her moving toward Track 18.  He followed deeper into the early rush hour crowd, cradling the frame against him like a football. The woman kept moving away, separated by fresh welters of people pouring toward the waiting trains and Jackson was about to call out her name when he lost sight of her as she melted into another surge of the crowd.



Steven Fromm is a writer and journalist currently living in Robbinsville, New Jersey. His work has appeared in several publications, including Inkwell and Salamander. He recently completed his first novel.

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