3: Follow the Thread

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From childhood’s hour I have not been

As others were; I have not seen

As others saw; I could not bring

My passions from a common spring.

From the same source I have not taken

My sorrow; I could not awaken

My heart to joy at the same tone;

And all I loved, I loved alone.

Edgar Allen Poe, “Alone”

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Sharif the Cabdriver is not as enchanted with my mission as I am.

“Boyfriend?” he asks, his eyes flashing meaningfully to the Towncar in front of us.

“Not exactly,” I reply. And by ‘not exactly,’ I mean ‘not at all,’ but he shrugs and his grimace is easy to ignore as we continue into lower Manhattan.

Several minutes later, the limo stops in front of the Chrysler Building, and Sharif looks at me for direction.

“You stop here?” he asks skeptically, eyeing my worn jeans and peacoat. Not exactly standard attire for a woman following a limo into the heart of the business district.

I pay my fare and am left on a sidewalk between Lexington and Third.

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The gleaming tower’s lobby is teeming with tourists and business professionals. There is a loud man in a group several feet away who is informing anyone within earshot that the lobby of this hub of commerce features impressive red Moroccan walls, yellow Siena marble floors, exotic wood detailing on the elevator cabs and a ceiling mural by Edward Trumbull.

The mural, for the record, is of the same building in which we all stand. Thank you, Edward Trumbull.

Redundant wall art aside, I soon spot what I am looking for. The building’s floor directory is nestled in a large metallic frame amongst various bits of architecture trivia, and I exit the lobby three facts richer.

First: the Chrysler building is one of the last skyscrapers in the Art Deco style.

Second: the tower’s gargoyles depict Chrysler car ornaments and the spire is modeled on a radiator grille.

Third: the sixty-fourth floor of this grand building houses none other than Cullen Associates, L.P.

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Hours later, I read.

Edward A. Cullen, Jr. joined Cullen Associates in 2009 as a Vice President, focusing on mergers and acquisitions, financings, and strategic advisory assignments for companies in the travel, leisure, and hospitality industries. He’d previously held roles as Associate and Analyst at Libra Securities, a boutique investment bank founded by Drexel Burnham Lambert professionals, and also held a previous position at J.P. Morgan in 2001 in the Private Banking Group. He holds a BA from Penn, and an MBA from Columbia.

I process my Google findings whilst reclining listlessly on my sofa, an episode of some talk show blaring obnoxiously in the background. I feel sluggish and drunk on the facts I’ve acquired, like a sated constrictor post-ingestion of baby elephant.

I know more now. I wonder what I’ll feel when I see him again.

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Grey suit, lavender tie.

I don’t approach, but I thrill as I watch him, reveling in the power wrought by knowledge that no one else in here has. I know now where he works, what he does, where he’s been. I’m moving through the concentric circles that constitute what’s made him who he is, every bit of minutiae I acquire painting brushstroke on the mental portrait I’ve created. I know where he goes when he leaves here each day.

Knowledge is all I have.

I can’t wait to have more.

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Dr. Cope’s neutral expression is beginning to look more like a frown, but at least this way I don’t have to see her toothy, coffee-stained smile.

“What is it about this man that fascinates you, Isabella?”

He’s a shiny new toy, I want to say.

He’s a mechanical engine I want to take apart to study, I want to say.

He’s the brightest thread I see, I want to say.

Instead, I tell her that I don’t know and prepare myself for more questions that I will not answer.

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You’re really weird, my roommate at Phillips Academy Andover told me on several different occasions. It was funny, then.

Contrary to what Dr. Cope keeps trying to infer, nothing tragic has happened to me. I’m not sick, and I’m not sad. I have friends of the college sort, the kind that tracked me on Facebook and sent me the occasional message before I deleted my account.

Now, somewhere in cyber-space, there are un-tagged photos of me at school, in theaters, in bars and at intramural volleyball games. There are pictures of me laughing, talking, smiling and dancing. There are pictures of me with friends and roommates, and even a few with my parents.

I had a life, once.

In the end, though, it’s easier

to just let it all go.

I remember my roommate’s words now, as I stand on my balcony in nothing but my underwear and a smile, quivering and shivering and inviting the world to look and look away. Nothing but their stares can touch me, and this is the best place to remember that.

My knees are knocking, and I know this – what I’m doing – isn’t normal. I know.

I’m free of normal.

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Black suit, white shirt, no tie.

He’s on his phone today. He looks frazzled.

“Yes, of course I’ll be there,” he snaps. “We both will. I’m leaving work early today to get ready.”

Temper, temper, I muse.

Beyond that, I hear him utter words like “Harvard Club,” “bootleg” and “cocktail hour.”

A quick Google search and one credit card payment later, I’m on my way out the door, hoping there’s enough time to ransack the vintage store on West Twenty-Fifth Street.

For the first time in a long time, I have something resembling a plan.

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About hollelujah
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