I paused between the office and the parking lot to appreciate the feel and smell of the glistening, rain-washed city. The towers of glass and marble, framed by now-cloudless skies, sparkled in the low afternoon sun. In that instant I was not an aging attorney forgetting deadlines, phone numbers and birthdays. I was a creature, alone and at one with a glorious all.
I drew a deep breath, steeling for a tense drive. I spun and stepped smack into another suited pedestrian. He tumbled spectacularly forward. I scrambled to help, but he was up in a flash.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
He jumped like a short-coat Chihuahua.
"I'm sorry," I blurted. "It was my fault." I reached for my glasses. They were bent and scratched.
“I’m fine," he snapped, brushing himself. "Thank you for your concern.”
His voice was musical. I stepped closer and touched his arm. “Are you sure? That was quite a fall.”
He regarded me, now more composed. “Yes. I am fine. Thanks again.”
His arm retracted. Then I noticed his eyes. They were… gold, flecked with deep red. And the shape—not just almonds—they were large and observant, unlike anything… I blinked.
“Why . . . you look like an Elf!”
His eyes darted. Pedestrian's passed without interest. He relaxed and returned his gaze to me.
"How do you mean?" he asked in his wind-chime voice.
I noticed more and laughed at the absurdity of the question. He seemed young, but his hair was pure white. His ears were delicate and long, and pointed, top and bottom!
“You are an Elf,” I said.
He shrugged. Then tried to step away, but instead collapsed, hurt.
“Steady there,” I said, helping him up. “Don’t put weight on that foot.”
I placed his arm on my shoulder. He was feather light. “Should I call emergency services?”
“No,” he said, pointing to the bus-stop bench just 30 feet away. We hobbled over. Despite his insubstantial frame, his grip was firm.
As we sat, a green-eyed woman approached. “Is everything okay?” she asked.
“He might have sprained his ankle,” I said.
She stared directly at me and raised an eyebrow.
I pointed to the Elf's foot. She looked at my hand. "Are you sure you're okay?" she asked.
I glanced at the Elf, who shook his head. I looked back at her. If I were her, I would ignore me, not the Elf.
“We’re completely fine," chimed the Elf.
But she waited for me to respond. “Um… it's okay. Thanks for asking.” I flashed a smile, which she returned. Then she left.
"She didn't see you," I said.
"She did," he corrected. "But she didn't consider me part of the conversation."
He bent and cupped his hands around his ankle—almost touching, but not quite. “I will be fine in a moment. You’ve been very kind.”
“Are you healing yourself?”
"Healing, fixing, repairing…" He tilted his head. "You are familiar with magic?”
I shrugged. “Movies, books…”
He nodded and returned to the task. I noted his clothing—a nice gray three-piece suit, black shoes, a mildly non-conservative Jerry Garcia tie—all completely human. His stark, white hair was cropped close. No quiver. No pointed boots. No green tights.
He swirled his ankle with abandon and stood.
“So what's with the suit?" I asked.
“What's with the cell phones and cars?" he quipped.
“Times change." He removed my glasses and regarded the bent frame. "May I?"
“Have Elves been among us all along?”
“You’re the first I’ve seen.”
“The first you noticed.”
“Are you everywhere?”
“No. We were once close in number. But you live short lives and breed like rabbits.”
He lifted a finger, and then applied magic to my glasses. “Try that,” he said.
“I can’t be the first person to have talked to an Elf,” I said, returning the glasses to my face. They were perfect.
He smiled. “No. But it's rare.”
I recalled the green-eyed woman. I watched people pass. They knew he was there. They stepped around him. But he was anonymous. They did not regard him directly. My encounter was pure accident.
“People never really address you?”
“Nor will you," he said.
"I'm just another pedestrian."
I felt a light tingle in my temples. Was he erasing my memory? "Hey, wait a minute!" I yanked the glasses from the bridge of my nose.
"You've had trouble remembering," he said.
"Well yes, but—"
"Then it's a fair trade," he said. "You've been most kind. Thank you."
He stared back pleasantly. A bus arrived. Its door opened with a whoosh and a clunk.
"Third Street," said the driver.
I shook my head. The door hissed closed and a cloud of diesel followed the bus away. I checked the time on my cell. If I didn't get moving, the commute would be torture.
I don't recall why I sat at the bus stop that day, but the moment is vivid in my memory. I felt terrific—some great load was gone. Now, occasionally, from time to time, a white-haired stranger catches my eye and vanishes, reminding me of a fresh start on a November day.