The music comes to a crescendo and stops. The dancers all pant in unison, the only sound left. She unties her pointe shoes and rubs her feet. Imagining how great her shearling boots will feel makes her groan slightly, so that a fellow company dancer shoots her a side eye glance.
In the locker room, she pulls on soft, worn jeans and a cashmere sweater – the latter a gift from her upstate aunt. Over the top she slips on a lofty poncho with a cowl neck so deep, she can burrow in it like a rabbit in it’s den.
She bends to slip her feet – at last! – into the shearling boots. Ecstasy. Grabbing her bag, she hurries out the door of the dance company, hair streaming out behind her in the chilly afternoon. This poncho is one of her favorites. She sewed it herself last month from fabric purchased in the garment district. When she imagined coming here, she wanted to live like a big city girl. The garment district, slightly gritty around the edges and full of eclectic ethnic restaurants shoehorned between giant warehouses, is her favorite Saturday haunt. She packed her sewing machine – a gift from her mother the year before she began dancing seriously – because it reminded her of what she could create without depending upon anyone else.
The machine helped her sew her way through high school mini skirts, college maxi skirts and dance workshop leggings. She sewed her way through Sunday apartment curtains and summer placemats on her parents deck back home. The luxuriousness of the fleece she chose for this poncho feels decadent in a city full of hard edges and sharp tongues.
From across the train car, he spots her. It’s her walk that he notices first, as if she’s a butterfly, alighting on first one flower and then another. She is simply clad in jeans and a voluminous, what do you call them? His mind searches for the word in a database bereft of fashion terms. “Poncho” he says, audibly. She turns slightly and then looks away quickly. She’s heard then. He hasn’t really taken her all in, as the car slows for the next stop, and then she’s gone, flitting from petal to petal.
The doors close as the blaring announcement snaps him out of his reverie. What was it? She wasn’t tall; normally he goes for tall women to match his 6’4” frame. It wasn’t her face. Although pretty, it wasn’t her astounding beauty that captured his gaze. He jumps up as the car slows and gets out, his long legs taking the steps two at a time. The weekend cycling he does pays off, and he emerges from the depths into a sunny, but cool spring late afternoon. He begins a slow lope back towards the previous stop. About a block ahead, he spots her; poncho, he says silently. She’s standing outside a store window gazing at knit garments. Ponchos, from the looks of it. He’s crossed the street now and quietly stops beside her.
“Poncho” he says. She starts and jumps a half step away, a quick springy move that surprises him so much, he laughs. A dancer, he realizes, she’s a dancer. He notices her for the first time, long dark hair, deep golden brown eyes framed by thick black lashes. Creamy skin with cheeks reddened by the spring chill. And the poncho, a peacock blue cloud enveloping her.
“Poncho” she says, smiling.
“You must like ponchos” he gestures at the window display.
“I guess I do” she turns to him and has to look up, he’s so tall. “ I do love them, although I am surprised you know what they are called.”
“I thank my sister for that,” he grins.
“You should go in and look at them up close,” he crosses the distance to the shop’s door in two paces. She shakes her head slightly, looking down for a moment “I can’t even afford to stand here.”
“Last I checked, browsing is free,” he counters, opening the door, gesturing her to join him.
What the heck, she thinks. It’s not even coffee, it’s textiles.