Natasha awoke to the sound of a siren a couple of streets away. Opening the window, she looked down to see a smattering of brown and red leaves that had already scattered across the side walk. She stretched and dressed in her favourite jade jumper, pulled on her jeans and tied back her hair with a matching scarf. She slipped her arms into the arms of her new, white jacket that she´d bought that summer. Reaching the bottom of the pine stairs, she found a New York Times lying on the table. Skimming through the culture section whilst sipping on an Oolong tea, she spotted an exhibition about the history of film and photography in a gallery in Chelsea.
"This should get you from A to B" Luke placed the metro card next to Natasha`s cup of tea. "Just get off at 9th street and walk, it`s not far from there." He nodded at the review she was reading.
"Thanks bro" Natasha smiled a little nervously.
"You´ll be fine, just watch out for yourself on those busy intersections" He flashed her a crooked smile and lugged the Leica across his torso, straightening the strap at his shoulder, "See ya then" and swiftly turned down the stairs, shutting the door behind him.
It was silent for a moment, before another siren sounded a few blocks away. Natasha sipped on her Jade Oolong and opened the History of New York at a sepia picture of the Upper West Side, with half built sky scrappers on the sky line. She hesitated, contemplating staying in the apartment to read. A minute later she closed the book tightly shut, grabbed the metro card and skipped out of the apartment into fresh Autumn air.
"Here" Anais placed a piece of paper that she`d scrawled upon in Natasha`s hand, as they were saying goodbye. "I can still remember his number. I know he still lives there, in the Lower East Side, cause I spoke to him not long ago. He has a kid now, a beautiful baby girl, half Iranian. I wasn´t for him. He knew it, but he treated me so well. I trust him to you".
Natasha took out the scrunched up piece of paper that she had carried from Austria to New York and dialed the number. "Yeah....you know the gallery?.... great see you there in about half an hour then...bye".
Turning the corner into Washington Square, she spotted Grey Art Gallery, and confidently strode across the street.
An array of 19th and early 20th century photography and film crowded the gallery walls. Natasha took out her crystal flower notebook, upon seeing a series of original Loie Fuller lantern slides hand painted, from the Danse Serpentin. "It was the time of Art Nouveau", Natasha wrote "Art Nouveau`s organic forms and symbolism, abstract fantasies. The swirling lines abstract the body, distorting the new feminine that alluded to the eternal feminine of the time, the home-maker."
Natasha moved on. "Edison Maufacturing Company 1899. Epic panoramas, travelogues and nature scenes, artists and film-makers explored public entertainment. These themes had fueled Impressionist painting for decades". Natasha turned another corner of the gallery to see painting and film stills side by side".
"It´s a treasure trove in here isn`t it"?
"Hi, I´m Dan, Anais` friend. I saw you taking down notes and figured you must be Natasha. Anais told me that I might spot you scribbling away"
"Oh" Natasha laughed and shook Dan`s hand, looking down, shaking her head a little out of absorption. "Hi, yes, well, occupational hazard"
Dan laughed so that his wrinkles creased around his kind blue eyes. His hair was a flash of straw blonde, a little punky sticking up, but his intense look revealed what Anais had told me about him, that he was a learned man, diligent, yet caring.
"I just love the way that they have put paintings and films from the same period together, it really brings out their influences upon each other" Natasha gestured to the gallery walls. "It shows the contrast between kinetic and still image and the possibilities of both. Industrial age meets beauty"
"You studied film didn`t you"? Dan asks, smiling.
Natasha laughs "I just graduated, it´s obvious isn`t it"?
"A little" Dan replies.
Natasha knew it was an understatement and wondered if she was coming off too preppy. Dan started talking about his time in New York with Anais and how many exhibitions and art films she had taken him to. So that soon, Natasha´s awkward graduate feeling disappeared and she relaxed into easy flowing conversation about arts spaces and funny or interesting exhibitions they had seen.
Walking out onto the sidewalk, Dan´s tone changed slightly and he asked gently "So how is Anais"?
"Really well, I..I think she is happy. She has so much energy, I sometimes wonder if she really is older than me" Nastasha smiles as they cross Washington Square.
"Yes, she always was like that, she certainly wore me out" Dan shyly caught the tail end of what he just said "well, yes.." he said quickly "but privately, she was very conservative, you know, in her view of how life should be."
"Perhaps that was her convent upbringing, in Paris" Natasha added
"Could be..." Dan trailed off wistfully as if in another time. "Give her a hug when you see her, from me, won`t you"?
"Of course" Natasha nodded her head wondering what was behind that hint of heavy sadness in eyes.
"Well" Dan snapped out of his mood, smiled and embraced Natasha "It was great to meet you, and don`t forget to check out those art spaces I recommended, they really are the best ones." He laughed again turning away "Anais took me to all of them and I am sure, she wanted me to be your messenger for her to you".
"Yes, I am sure she did. I will." Natasha smiled genuinely pleased to have met her first friend in the Big Apple.
Dan walked backwards beaming back at her. Natasha`s small frame stood still, in anticipation of her future. His grey, blue eyes standing out in contrast to his canary yellow hair, seemed to know more of what challenges and delights that lay ahead for her. She stood timidly waving to him till he turned back to his Manhattan heights.