Making her way down the post office steps, a woman gripped the railing. Her back and shoulders were hunched and bent forward. She was murmuring. Passersby paused just long enough to look her up and down and one or two seemed to consider offering an arm for her to lean on, but they did not, maybe for the fierceness of her grip or the flash in her eyes when she glanced up.
Down the block, a dancer stepped up to a booth on the street. He wore a thin shirt that hid nothing. Without touching, he ran his fingers through the air above the trinkets and finally looked shyly at the man behind the table. The man glared back, almost as if he might growl or shout. The dancer shifted and narrowed his eyes then, transforming a reticent, tired look into something hard, something that became gangster in the way that water freezes to ice. His hand crashed onto the table as he leaned forward.
Just then, a homeless man staggered past, clipping the dancer and swerving toward the brick wall past the table, where he stumbled on a few feet before crashing into the brick and slumping onto the ground against it. His eyes came up, unfocused, and his long fingers, splayed and flopped over his knees, were creased with dirt.
A girl sped along the sidewalk in front of him. Her backpack bounced. She smoothed her hair into a ponytail as she half-ran, exposing green fingernails through blond strands. Every time someone passed going the opposite direction, she grinned.
I came behind her. No one talked to me, no one waved or told me to have a good day. I met the eyes of the old woman at the post office. I noticed when the dancer stiffened and straightened. I smelled the homeless man. And while this girl smiled, I painted my face into a mask. No one noticed me, and I knew I could protect her from here. I was so powerful, so outside of them.
A voice ripped through me. It tore the scene away, the girl first, and I gasped for air.
“Charlie,” she said. “Charlie, I would like you to refocus on the present.”
Everything went black and then I recognized the voice and the walls of a room.
“Come back here, Charlie,” she said. “Find now.”
I felt the chair beneath me, the office air around me.
“That’s right,” she said.
I looked at my therapist and began to cry. She was gone.