He was a ripple through the stained glass. A dark and shifting shape in an only slightly brighter lobby. It wasn’t far from midnight, on the edge of Harlem, and I had already opened the outer door to my apartment building and was standing in the vestibule when he appeared. Behind me, the street was empty of everything but the occasional used coffee cup and some lazy leaves of newspaper skimming the sidewalk. There was no voice in my head whispering at me to run—not yet—though the flush creeping beneath my collar was familiar.
I was a woman alone, clenching my key between my knuckles. But when the flicker of him reached the heavy iron door handle, I looked away.
If I had chosen to stare him down, I would have had some answers for the cops when they asked me: How tall was he? How heavy? What was he wearing? I pulled back against the tiled walls instead. It was my silent deal: I won’t see you and you don’t see me. That’s when he looked at me.
The double take was for Kei. I knew it, even if I could never prove it. Even if I barely noticed it at the time. In my defense, it had been so long since I had seen my sister that I had forgotten the effect we had on others.
Kei was upstairs, waiting. Come for me, six years too late.
I slipped by the man as he hesitated, rushing through the second door and into the lobby, inflating the air and life between us with each step. I can still feel him watching me, though his footsteps didn’t turn to follow mine across the marble floor. Thinking back, I can’t hear any sound at all—not even the front door clicking behind him as it closed. He was a memory already, fleeing. When I finally remembered the double take, he was long gone.