It was a first date. We’d never met, but I recognized him from his picture as he waited for me across the street from the L station. It was early December, before sunset, and we were meeting downtown to look at Christmas lights after he finished his shift.
The streets were crowded with shoppers, the Christmas decorations sparkled and twinkled, and we were hitting it off. I liked his deep, resonant voice and we talked in an easy rhythm. He was tall, black Irish with broad shoulders, and there was a spark in his eye I liked.
When he offered to show me the skyscraper where he worked as a building engineer, I was game.
I love these buildings that hold up the sky — I always have. When I walk the city canyons at their feet, they make me breathe deep and feel tall (all 5’2″ of me). I’ll probably never get over walking around like a tourist downtown with my head turned to the sky.
We got in one elevator to take us up to the building management office, and after he picked up some keys, another took us higher.
The 99th floor was filled with machinery bigger than my apartment — all the guts of the building, rumbling away. As we walked around the huge space, he guided me to an ordinary door, turned the key in its lock, and opened a door to the glory of the city at dusk.
The sky was pink and dark purple, and the city glittered with lights. As I leaned out into the view, I could feel a surprisingly warm breeze embrace me. There was nothing between me and the city and sky but the wind.
It was a door to nowhere that opened into maybe the biggest view I’d ever seen. In the end, there were four of them, one on each outer wall of the building, each of them with a completely different but equally spectacular view.
I didn’t have to go up those elevators with him on our first date, and I surely didn’t have to lean out each of those doors. There was obvious risk. But I did go up, and I did lean out, and I saw things I’d never seen before, and I saw familiar things from an entirely new perspective. I felt a wind that I’ll never feel again – the warm wind that embraces the highest floors of that building.
I’ll never forget what it felt like to stand in an open door 99 floors up with nothing between me and the world but the wind.
I’ll never forget what it felt like to lean out into the risk and the beauty. To breathe it all in and feel my world expand to fill it. To hold the impossible fullness of it all.
We talked for over eight hours of walking and eating and more walking that night, but I’m not sure I ever really stopped leaning out into that wind.