By Leah Bayley-Hay
“Ms. Ryan,” the slender doorman chimed as a captivating woman swept into the apartment building lobby. “Chilly evening, isn’t it? Fall closed in quickly on the city.”
The woman removed the dark shades from her face and released her hair from the clip that was holding it loosely to the back of her head. Her dark brown waves cascaded down her back.
“Mr. Hill, November in New York is simply not the same as it was. I can feel it in the air.” There was a touch of melancholy sitting almost unnoticeably behind her voice, but Mr. Hill had been Amelia’s doorman for too many years for it to go unrecognized. But as always, he smiled, wished her a good day, and kept the rest of his thoughts to himself.
Amelia made her way to the elevator, her heels ringing on the marble tiles. She pressed the button for the eleventh floor and slumped against the back wall of the small metal box. Thoughts of the city she called home drifted through her mind as she briefly revisited her interaction with Mr. Hill. New York didn’t feel the same, and most days she couldn’t recall why she moved her entire life to the concrete jungle in the first place.
The bell of the elevator knocked Amelia out of her thoughts. Eleventh floor: not high enough to be scared, but the perfect height for a view. She thought of the days when the mere skyline of the city would’ve left her starstruck for hours. Now the buildings were just towers, and they didn’t seem as tall as they used to.
Amelia entered her apartment dropping her keys and small shoulder bag onto the counter and kicking off her heels and jacket. Her living space was clean and quiet, almost like no one lived there at all. The colors were cold, a mixture of whites and greys and blacks. There were no pictures on the walls, no pictures anywhere at that. Just a still apartment that Amelia hadn’t considered home in a long time.
She made her way to her tiny kitchen and opened a cabinet door, reaching for a wine glass. Without second thought, she took a glass from the very back of the cabinet: the ones she used solely for entertaining. Amelia pulled a chilled bottle of Moscato from the refrigerator and slumped down onto a low sofa that was placed methodically next to a set of large windows, a perfect view of the skyline. The city was starting to light up as night fell.
“Cheers to you November,” Amelia whispered as she took a sip of her drink, gazing out the glass panels.
Next to her on a table was a small answering machine. It was outdated and she had been meaning to get rid of it for a while but every time she went to unplug it, the small red light that read “5” on the top stopped her. Amelia ran her manicured fingers over the button to play the messages. She always hesitated whenever she decided she was going to press play.
“It’s been three years, goddammit,” Amelia scoffed, frustrated with the sudden storm that was brewing inside her head. She took another sip of her drink—less tamed and classy than the other sips—and slammed her middle finger down on the button to play the messages.
“You have five old messages,” the automated voice rang out. “Thursday, November 6th, 8:57 pm.”
Amelia sat in silence staring out the windows waiting for the message to play. Her apartment had grown darker with the sun almost completely out of sight in the city sky.
“Hey Mels,” a deep male voice came out the answering machine and with it, Amelia’s stomach went soft, and her shoulders dropped. “I’m just getting off the train now and I was thinking . . . dinner tonight?” The voice chuckled, and the sounds of busy people and traffic littered the background of the audio message. “I got a surprise for you when I get back, see you soon okay? Love y-”
The message cut off and Amelia quickly pressed the stop button to keep any more messages from playing. Staring at the voicemail box, she suddenly reached for the cord giving it power and yanked the plug out the wall. Within minutes she was back in her coat and heels and outside her apartment building quickly walking down the sidewalk in the cold night.
She made her way to a bar not too far away from her building and took a seat at the counter. The bartender almost instantly gave his attention to Amelia as she sat down.
“What can I get for you tonight, ma’am?” he questioned.
“For starters, I’m most likely going to need a taxi when I’m done,” Amelia said, moving her hair behind her ears. The bartender laughed at her comment and so did the man sitting to the right of her. “Martini. Extra, extra olives,” she said to the bartender while turning her gaze to see the gentleman next to her.
He was tall and had dark defined features, jet black hair and strong structures in the face. It made him seem mystifyingly welcoming. What really got to Amelia was the resemblance. He was nearly a mirror image of somebody she had used to know, the voice from the answering box, and the uncanniness caught her off guard.
“Danny,” the man said, a smile forming on his face. Amelia, still taken back with his appearance, failed to answer in any way. He furrowed his brows and continued on, “That’s my name . . . Danny. And yours is?”
Amelia finally broke out of her trance as the bartender placed her drink on the counter.
“Amelia,” she said. The eye contact she was holding with the man was creating a thick tension of some sort. It made her want to look away, but she had never been the type to do so.
“You don’t hear that a lot. Amelia. I don’t think I’ve ever met an Amelia,” Danny said. He was staring at her like she was a new star in the sky. Amelia hadn’t fantasized in years, but for a quick second she caught herself thinking about life with another person.
“I find it to be a pretty common name,” Amelia replied while taking a sip of her drink. “I’ve met plenty other Amelia’s.”
Danny gave a small laugh, still maintaining heavy eye contact with Amelia. Finally, she broke her eyes away and gazed at a small screen in the bar broadcasting a football game; the Jets were playing.
“I’m new to town. New York that is. How long have you been here?” Danny questioned, seemingly desperate to keep the conversation with Amelia going.
“Too long.” She looked back at him. She took a small pause, looking at the green olives sitting in her glass. “Why does a person come to New York?” Amelia’s tone had changed, and she asked the question as if she needed the answer to continue her night.
Danny shrugged. “City of dreams. Everything you want is in this city. Shit, I don’t know, you come here with a couple of bucks in your pocket, young, ready for life, looking for love and you see what happens.” Danny fixed his coat collar and looks at Amelia, pining for her reply.
“It’s nothing good,” Amelia said solemnly.
Danny furrowed his eyebrows at Amelia. “What do you mean?” he questioned.
Amelia finished off her drink and patted her mouth dry with a small square napkin. “It means you come here with a couple of bucks in your pocket, young and ready for life. And you find love and you think about rings and dogs and kids. You move in together and you think to yourself ‘this is it, they’re the one.’ And suddenly you’re more in love with another person than the city that you risked your entire life for. You wake up with them, you go to sleep with them. You fight and make up in the same night. It’s fast and exciting and it’s all you want. And then one day you blink, and it’s all gone. It’s all gone and you’re leaving boxes with their stuff outside your apartment, and you hang onto voicemail messages that you otherwise would’ve cleared from the answering machine and-”
Danny reached for Amelia’s hand with his which halted her rambling. She looked down at Danny’s hand with tears in her eyes and pulled her own hand away.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She quickly wiped her eyes and started to collect her belongings. “This is the city of dreams, but there’s always a catch, you know?”
Danny appeared taken aback by what he just witnessed, however he seemed more captivated with Amelia after the fact than he was before.
“Let me call you a taxi,” he said to her as she stood from her spot at the bar.
Amelia stopped and looked at Danny. She felt like she knew him for years, but he was just another stranger in a bar.
“I hope this city gives you everything you’re looking for,” she said while placing a cash tip on the counter.
Without giving Danny a chance to reply, Amelia turned and left the bar, making her way back into the cold city streets. Maybe it was the alcohol in her system, or the way Danny had looked so familiar. Or maybe it was the eleventh floor or the answering machine full of messages, but as Amelia’s heels clicked against the pavement and she made her way home, she thought to herself that her days in New York had ran its course.