Evan Stoess could choke back the bile that soured his throat. His soul was a different story.
He stood in the shadow of a Dutch elm tree, the strong summer sun behind him over Central Park. Sweating in his dark suit, he watched the front entrance of 940 Fifth Avenue. He shifted from foot to foot, impatiently focused on the ornate building and its money-soaked green canopy. He waited; he watched.
Evan’s ritual often lasted more than an hour, and sometimes his quarry never appeared. Later in the season, when the ocean warmed and the city slowed, the happy family frequently departed earlier in the week. But New York City’s summer had been elusive, and this, the second Friday of June, welcomed its first seasonal weekend. Evan was certain of success and more than willing to wait.
“Un-fucking-believable,” he whispered to a pigeon as a silver Bentley convertible rolled up to the canopy. The winged rodent ignored him, a typical response from all creatures in Evan’s opinion. At five feet ten inches tall, one hundred sixty-five pounds, Evan’s medium build, sandy brown hair and brown eyes were, in a word, average. He’d learned early in life that his everyman looks would neither open nor close any doors, so he developed other means of attracting attention.
The Bentley wore a temporary license tag, but it betrayed nothing. The gleaming machine reeked of newness. Evan swore he could smell the leather. He loosened his tie and silently cursed the rat with wings.
A white-gloved attendant jumped out of the Bentley just as the doors of 940 Fifth opened. Evan’s restless shifting ceased as he slipped imperceptibly into the shadow of the elm, comfortably adjusting to the undulating stones familiar beneath his feet. He took a deep breath, every muscle relaxed, the palette changed before his eyes, the surreal scene unfolded. He relished and feared this moment.
First out the door were two radiant children, perfect in their Norman Rockwell–like innocence. The little girl was six; her blue seersucker sundress, headband, and sandals matched and she carried a pink Cheeky Chats backpack. She bounded out the door as a six-year-old should, but before reaching the sidewalk, regained her composure, turned gracefully with a flip of her long blond hair, and looked for her little brother.
“Tyler, hurry! The beach!” Evan could hear her say.
Tyler was a few months short of three years. He half ran, half stumbled toward Ashley and the waiting Bentley. Wisps of his blond hair stood straight up as he smiled at his sister. Tyler appeared in a pair of ubiquitous Ralph Lauren ads the past spring, and he dressed the part today—pressed and pleated khaki shorts, a white button-down shirt and dark blue sweater vest. Did Polo really make loafers that small? Evan wondered. The co-op’s porter stood between the children and the busy avenue, arms extended in both a welcoming and protective stance. Evan held his breath.
Holding hands loosely, the couple emerged. To Evan’s eyes they floated more than walked. Frame by frame Evan followed them. All sound silenced, the city stopped, as Geoffrey and Victoria Buchanan prepared to leave for the Hamptons.
The synchronized scene progressed as it always did and, Evan hoped, always would. Once the parents had reached the sidewalk and secured the children, the porter who fetched the car from the garage opened the trunk and waited for the doorman who carried the family’s luggage. Another doorman followed Geoffrey and Victoria with two car seats. With remarkable efficiency he secured the seats, and the children in them, while the trunk filled with the weekend’s necessities—toys, food and drink from Eli’s, two sets of golf clubs and, in a handsome case, for shooting skeet with his uncle, Geoffrey’s great-grandfather’s handmade Purdey over and under shotgun. Summer wardrobes waited at the beach.
Amidst the seamless action, Victoria and Geoffrey moved effortlessly, as if in slow motion. As always, Evan was mesmerized. He watched Victoria slip in the driver’s side and hop the center console to avoid avenue traffic as Geoffrey shook hands with the ranking doorman and nodded at the others. They genuinely like him. They respect him, he said to himself. The men waved as the Bentley pulled away from the curb and turned east on Seventy-fourth Street. Ashley also waved, her cherubic expression surely visible from space.
Evan tensed as the magic evaporated, and he promised never to forget the memorable sighting. Inspired by what he had witnessed, he hated himself and vowed to get this life, the life he deserved. He stepped from the shadow to the curb and spit into the street.
Rain or shine, he always walked around Central Park’s reservoir before returning to his shitty walk-up apartment near the East River. It was part of the Ritual.
He always fumed. Bitter. Angry. Obsessed. Sometimes, he cried.
Copyright © 2014 by Ted Scofield