He stood on the bridge over the Chicago River, and looked out across the water and sighed. He was nearly back at his hotel, but he just wanted to savour the last of the night, and watch the city lights dancing across the ripples in the water. People laughed and talked in the restaurant above the marina and cars crawled by as city life went on around him, but he barely noticed any of them. Instead his mind slipped back a few hours to that moment on the train when he’d first seen her.
He was late, but he’d travelled four thousand miles to be there, so it was always going to be hard to be on time. It hadn’t been until he was on the train that he’d figured out how to make his phone work in this strange, faraway land and so he’d had no way to let her know he was on his way. He spent the train ride worrying that she’d have given up and gone home after seeing the train he was supposed to be on pull up and then leave again without him stepping off. She would have had to watch the next train do the same. Now the third train was pulling in and he felt sure that she’d be worried that it would be leaving her alone on the platform again.
He stood up as the train began to slow and he strained to see through the crowd of other passengers waiting to get off. His eyes scoured the platform until he found her, one lone beautiful girl in a zebra striped dress, looking nervous and anxious.
“There she is!” he said aloud, to no-one in particular. It was just too hard to keep his excitement and relief to himself. He wished there was some way to signal to her, to let her know he was there, that she didn’t need to worry anymore. It seemed as if the whole train was getting off at this station, as a huge crowd blocked his way to the exit. They all shuffled off the train so slowly as he fidgeted and fretted in his eagerness to alight from the carriage. Eventually he was free, and he ran through the crowd, knocking into an old lady on the way. He didn’t realise he’d done it, not until alter when he was remembering the moment, and he felt bad for not saying sorry, but he only had one thing on his mind. He had to get to her.
She was on the opposite platform, and as the train started to pull away, he crossed the tracks behind it, running up to her. He saw the look on her face, a look of confusion and relief, as for a moment, he felt, she had no idea who this strange man in a leather jacket was, running towards her. Then before he knew it, her arms were around him and they shared their first, nervous kiss. The kiss of two strangers who knew each other better than they’d ever known someone before.
“I was afraid you weren’t coming,” she sobbed.
“Of course I was coming, I love you,” he said, and they kissed again.
She took his hand and led him away from the station, to begin the evening they’d been dreaming of and planning for a year. Their nervousness was tangible as they walked through the hot, summer’s evening air. His heavy leather jacket made him uncomfortable, and he regretted wearing it, a simple traveller’s mistake, not knowing what an August night in Illinois would be like.
She led him to a restaurant, and they sat down to eat, attempting to talk. All they’d done for a year had been talk, every day, for hours, and now they were sat together and they couldn’t find the words. He was worried that she was disappointed, that the dream had been better than the reality of him. He was nervous, because every time he looked at her he thought the opposite. He’d seen so many pictures of her, but nothing had prepared him for this, nothing had prepared him for being there with such a beautiful woman. All he wanted was to be alone with her, to hold her and kiss her.
They ordered their food from a waitress who seemed baffled by them. Neither of them had any appetite, they both just wanted to get away and be alone, and when they asked for the bill, their food barely touched, the waitress gave them a look of total disgust. They didn’t care, they just needed to leave, to get away and be together.
They started walking, neither of them really knowing where they were going. They walked along behind the restaurant, as she tried to think of somewhere they could go and just be together.
He couldn’t take it anymore. He’d come so far, and they’d spent so long apart, he just had to know if she felt the same way as him. There was only one way to find out.
“Wait…” he said, and he took her hand. She stopped and looked at him. They were standing in a wide, open alleyway; there was no-one else around. He didn’t care, he didn’t really notice where they were, all he could see was her, and he knew there was only one thing he could do. He took her in his arms, held her close and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back, then held him tight to her, burying her face in his shoulder. They just stood like that for what felt like hours, just holding on to each other as the whole world melted away around them.
At some point the sun set, at some point the evening turned to night. He couldn’t tell you when. All he could remember was the taste of her lips, the feel of her breath on his face, her touch and the way she held him as if the whole world would crumble if she let go.
The night seemed to last forever, but eventually time slipped away from them, and she led him back to the station. They curled up on a bench together, laughing and joking and taking pictures, all the nervousness of first meeting had melted away, and they were just the couple they’d always been from so far apart.
An old man waited with his son on the platform, clearly amused by the young lovers. The man heard his accent and asked him where he was from, and what had brought him so far from home. She had, of course, she had drawn him here from across the ocean and covered him with love.
He could hardly remember how he’d got back to the city. He’d drifted through the streets downtown, back to his hotel, until he reached the bridge across the river just before it. Now here he was, looking out across the water, dreaming of her, wishing she was there with him, holding his hand. Wishing he could share this moment with her, and every moment after it. He looked across the river at the city.
“Goodnight, Chicago,” he smiled, “I think I’ll be seeing a lot of you.”