It’s been a while since you were last in New York City and the city feels foreign again; a social experiment without a hypothesis.
To settle yourself, you go for lunch at your favorite café with your husband and son. It’s crowded, of course, because everywhere is. The server seats you in a far corner next to a couple who are in their late sixties or early seventies. They are dressed from head to toe in shades of neon green. He is wearing thick-rimmed circular eyeglasses; she is wearing white, pointed eyeglasses and a neon green headscarf over a black wig. They are so boldly dressed that you don’t know where to look, so you stare at the menu for a long time, even though you know it by heart.
This is the baby’s first experience in a high chair, but that is now the least interesting aspect of this excursion. The neon people are eating lamb and drinking goblets of red wine at noon on a Wednesday, and staring at your baby. Soon, because there’s nowhere else to look, you are all staring at your baby. The baby is nonplussed, staring into the middle distance, gumming on a teething ring.
“He’s so alert,” the woman with the black wig and the neon bandana and the white pointed eyeglasses says.
You smile and agree. “He’s always been that way,” you say.
The baby begins slamming the teething ring down on the table, repeatedly.
The woman watches him, nodding.
“He’s going to be an architect,” she says.
Later, you tell your husband that you must have been away from the city too long. After a few weeks here you wouldn't even register the neon people.
He looks at you, very seriously, for a moment and says, “We seemed to be the only ones who saw them. What if they were ghosts?”
“Don’t,” you say.
Because you can never be completely sure.