If he had been a painter, there might have been some excuse. Some excuse in his sitting, day after day, staring at the corner where the girl had been standing one morning. What girl? What day? He was not a painter. There was no girl standing there the many days when he was staring. He was not a painter, there was no paint on his fingertips, no stains visible to the naked eye.

The naked eye is capable of perceiving over 700 colors on a good day. This may or may not be true. It is true that on a good day and with a guide to full color printing printed on a wheel he could turn a dial and find shades of green gold lavender shale rose and ecru that he could not find without the wheel. Magic colors. He imagined himself as a painter and holding the wheel up he waved it like a fan, the full spectrum of colors washing over him as he sat in the café staring at the corner where a girl had been standing one day.

He was smoking. He loved to smoke, loved to watch the smoke spiral up and fade over his head, mingling with the colors he’d conjured from his color wheel. He watched the smoke dissipate and curl up into the corners near the south facing windows, which looked out onto the small green patch of grass that was a park where a girl might have been sitting, reading a novel in Russian, holding the cover up and he could see it but he could not read the title. If only he’d been able to read the title, he thought, and he imagined the girl looking up at him with her eyes with the flecks of some color, not aquamarine, not teal, some color, what was it? He took out his color wheel and sat there, smoking, looking for the color of the girl’s eyes who was not standing there and maybe never had been standing there.

He lit a cigarette and pretended that he had only been pretending bitterness. He saw the outline of the smoke where the girl had been standing so long that the outline stood there like a shadow, not going away. Watching him.

One day, at another café in another city the shadow appeared in the corner of his eye and when he turned to look at it he saw the girl slipping around the corner, the loose ends of her scarf twisting like the tail of a cat and he jumped up, leaving 3 dollars and his color wheel on the table. Would he go back for it? What color were her eyes? Did she smoke?

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December 2011

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