A Moment of Pause in The City

The quietest place in New York might be on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building. This man pulled up a stool and just started playing a saxophone.  Was he part of the building itself – the architecture – or part of the design to give that Noir feeling? That word has to go. I can’t use it. But the description of what it would be – of how to make the reader feel that would be something to accomplish.

It had been a long week at work – one of those that never ended and stayed with me all the way home, through the night- through your bones – it makes seeing the tried people sitting across from you on the train take on their strain.

So, walking home, my wife and I passed the Empire State, saw the door open. “Let’s go,” I said to her. She smile – always wanting to have gone up their but never having the time to do so.


There was no wait . It was late, cold and a Friday night. Tourists, for the most part, are not here in late February.  So through the hallways of the great building – holding what people think of when they see movies of the city. The older movies without the crispness of what is today. The folks working – all wearing their maroon uniforms, were all in good spirits as the slow stream gave them room to just do their jobs.

Velvet ropes that matched the uniforms of the people showed the way. Up. Stopping for a moment to take a picture that would be for sale when we exited the building, each of the people ahead of us looked at the camera and posed with the backdrop of the building they were in on a poster in the background.

When we walked in front, we kissed naturally, enjoying that moment to pause in the city while hidden inside of one of it’s most memorable landmarks. Into the crowded elevator after putting everything through a metal detector. A family with two little girls sped up with us to the 80th floor. Doors opened. One more set of ropes that matched the people helping with directions. One more elevator to the 86th floor. Doors open.

The City.

The silence was incredible. Finally, a chance to look down at the maze we ran around in each day. The construction of it all. Around us people posed for pictures. We just looked out as long as we could against the wind. Planes above were not as high above as they were on the streets. We breathed. We breathed. A moment to stop was rare. We were part of it now, there was no doubt. A little mold in our lungs and an extra push to get ahead on the sidewalk.

Up here though, it was night. The city was below. Reflection.

Then the man sat down with the saxophone inside and we moved against the glass, protected from the wind while everyone else just hustled around looking for what there was to see. I think we took time to let the eyelids close. The sounds of the Saxophone blended in. He had to have lived in the city. He had the greatest job in the world – at least for a character in a book.

“What do you do?”

“Me – Me, I play the saxophone on the 86th floor of the empire state building.”

Imagine the life that led to that moment. Anyone famous would not be working that on a Friday night. There were a number of gigs in town – in and out of town that brought more fame. Think about it though, he was providing memories for thousands of people from all around the world – his audience was huge. Not sure he was thinking that or just thinking it was another gig.

During the day he blended in with the thousands of people below running around. Maybe he just stayed in his apartment all day long. Maybe he was an executive who did it for fun. There were a million stories of what he could have been, but only one reality of who he was. I was too in the middle of who I was at that point to get into it with him. So we moved with his music and just enjoyed without trying much more. That was rare.

When it was enough – when we had to return home in time to give our cat insulin shots for his newly diagnoses diabetes, we moved past the wall where everyone’s pictures were. We looked.

“What number do you have,” the woman working asked, not as friendly as the one greeting us.

“We’re the one’s kissing,” my wife replied.

The lady found us right away and hand us a picture of the perfect backdrop of the city – in love and forever in that moment. 50 years from now, when we show that to our grandchildren, they might not know everything that went into that moment. They’ll make up their own stories.

It’s love.


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