The lights were turning up on the Brooklyn Bridge, irridescent strands of emeralds looping between the towers. The buzz from the bar inside grew louder, more boisterous; the crowd within slowly began to inch and spill out the French doors onto the terrace where the band played. A few couples were slow dancing. The breeze came stronger off the river and the coolth of evening suddenly pushed away the day’s sullen humidity, leaving only a velvety softness. Goosebumps swept her arms and she thought about asking for his suit jacket, which was draped on the back of his chair but he was so heavily engrossed at the moment, trying to balance the salt shaker on one edge of its base, and nearly succeeding. His tie was loosened and there was something about the sideways tilt of his head and the intense wrinkle between his eyebrows that made him look very much a rumpled, prep school boy. She nearly expected him to clamp his tongue between his teeth, the way her own son did when concentrating on a task at hand.
The thought of her son made her mind turn to practical matters. She needed to go home. Soon. A quarter of her beer was left. He had Corona bottles before him on the table, two finished and the third half-empty.
Or was it half-full?
“Do you want to dance?” she said.
She could practically hear the sound of his train of thought derailing. The salt shaker toppled and he looked at her a long moment. She met his eyes, keeping her gaze benign, calmly reaching to take a pinch of spilled salt and flick it over her left shoulder. At that, his smile unfolded, like a flower opening petal by petal in her sunshine.
“All right,” he said softly, and took a pinch of salt himself to flick.
Metal scraped against stone as they pushed back their chairs and stood up. He made an awkward gesture in her direction; it certainly seemed appropriate to take her hand and lead her to the floor. And yet unthinkable at the same time, and his hand fell flat, and he merely stepped back and let her go first.
Once out on the floor, it fared no more gracefully. They moved with the stilted hesitancy of not knowing what to do with each other. For years the boundaries had been unspoken, but most clearly defined. This entire moment was undefined and out of their context. This was not a white, inconsequential moment, nor a black, reckless one. The gray in between had yet to be found.