Jed hadn’t reached for Mabel in three years. She looked down when he slipped his hand through hers. Lucky she hadn’t looked to the right. She didn’t see the looped twine jumbled on the sidewalk. The haphazard display looked like the clearance tables she rummaged through at K-mart, but it would not have evoked the same thrill.
“Whatcha doing?” she said.
“Jes holdin yer hand zall.” Jed pushed off on his cane like he could make an imprint in the concrete.
“This big city smog has done clogged up your brain. Crazy fool, you haven’t held my hand since, well, I ain’t gonna argue witcha.”
“Can’t a husband hold his wife’s hand?”
“I guess. You sure you ok?”
Jed nodded and his Sunday hat shifted on his head. Elijah Parker was wrong. Nobody in New York laughed at his hat. Nobody pointed. Nobody here looked at you like they knew you or like they didn’t. Probably why somebody could sell goddamn nooses on the corner like the other folks were selling pretzels and hot dogs and T-shirts. How much would they charge for a noose anyway? He clamped his lips. The cost of a noose was more than anyone carried in their pocket—even in New York. Jed knew that anyone who’d whip out a buck or two or ten didn’t know what it was like to find your only daughter swinging by her neck from the tree in the backyard. He felt the hotel’s continental breakfast at the base of his throat. Maybe four doughnuts were too many, but they were free.
“Radio City is next on the list,” Mabel said.
“Wish we could be seein’ that Christmas show, y’know? Them Rockettes can really kick.”
“What is wrong with you, Jed Samuels? Yer whole life you wanted to see New York City and here we are. It took years of savin’ and dreamin’ to get a week away from real life and now all yi got to say is Ok and Uh huh? Yesterday you couldn’t wait to see the Radio City Music Hall.”
“Guess I’m jes tired.”
Jed slowed his gait and jostled his cane as if to twirl it, but he replaced its rubber tip to the ground and kept moving. Mabel raised her shoulders to her ears, held them there, then returned them to their rightful place. She wiggled her fingers against the back of Jed’s hand, but he didn’t let go. She was glad their hands still fit together. Their arms lulled into a gentle swing, proving they were on vacation even though the look on Jed’s face said he was anywhere but right there that minute.
“Does yer leg hurt?” Jed shook his head. “Well, what’s on yer mind then?”
“Lorelei,” he said.
Mabel stopped. The moving crowd parted around them without a glance or a falter. She looked at Jed, who had the same face he did when he was twenty and thirty and fifty except now he had frowned for so long that his cheeks drooped without any effort.
“She woulda liked New York, that girl. Always wantin’ what she couldn’t have. Like me and those fancy dresses on the dummies in Macy’s window.But what on earth all of a sudden made you think about Lorelei, Jed? Did you see somebody that looked like her? Why didn’t you point her out to me? That happened to me once in Darby, and I liked it sorta, seein what our girl mighta looked like now.”
“Yeah something reminded me of her is all. Made me think.”
Mabel sniffled and blinked. They started walking again, in stride with one another and their new tribe of fellow pedestrians.
Jed’s palm was a little sweaty, but he squeezed his wife’s hand hard. She squeezed back. Then Mabel raised her other hand, dangling the bag with her “I Love New York” snow globe inside, and pointed straight ahead to the bright lights of new memories.