Dear Girl in the Red Sweater,

Hi. You don’t know me, but I was walking my dog down North 7th when I saw you coming out of the coffee shop on Bedford. You weren’t with anyone, but you seemed pretty upset. You were on your phone and you had a look of confusion or hurt or anger, maybe all three, on your face. I felt bad for you. I mean, I don’t know you and I don’t know what happened, but something turned in my stomach for you at that moment. I think it was empathy. My first assumption was that you had just gotten a text from a boyfriend — I’m not really sure why my mind jumped there. I guess it’s just that you seemed more disappointed and resigned rather than annoyed by your mother’s persistent nagging.

The more I think about it, the more I’m sure it was a boyfriend or lover, whatever you call him.  Maybe he said something that hurt you or even worse, he didn’t say anything at all. I hate it when people do that — refuse to even give you the courtesy of a response. Whatever. I just remind myself that some people choose silence because they’re aware of how intense emotions can be, and it’s frightening to feel vulnerable. But I’m almost positive this guy loves you, if that’s what you were doubting. And I’m not just saying that because you’re beautiful, even though you are. There was something else about you that I could really see someone loving, a quality that surpassed your perfect physical appearance. I don’t know what you’d call it. Tenderness? Compassion? I saw it when you held open the door for the older man behind you and flashed him a toothy grin even though you didn’t look very happy with whatever situation you were dealing with at the time. The smile didn’t last long, but for that millisecond, I knew that you were the type of person to put other’s needs before your own. Maybe that was what was bothering you so much on your phone. Maybe you had given too much to someone as a sweet girl like you tends to do, and you weren’t getting what you deserved from them. I hope that wasn’t the case.

This is going to so sound weird and creepy, but I promise, that wasn’t my intention. I was just drawn to you. You were so magnetic and so distraught. We just wanted to make sure you were okay, Rufus and I, so we followed you for a little bit down the street. Rufus is my dog, he’s almost eight and can’t see very well from his left eye. Anyway, you were heading straight towards the park, which is a public place, so it really isn’t all that strange. Rufus needs the exercise and people walk their dogs there all the time. I wasn’t going to approach you or anything crazy like that, although there was a brief instance while we were walking behind you when we were so close I could smell the shampoo in your hair. If I was brave, I would’ve said something like, “You’re so beautiful, you shouldn’t ever let anyone get you down!”, but I felt like that was too presumptuous and sexist, even though I’m a woman, too, and definitely too forward. It wouldn’t have been a line, either. I think I would think the same thing if I saw a good-looking guy walking around with the face you were wearing. Not that there’s a correlation between attractiveness and sympathy. I don’t know. I’m just glad I didn’t say anything. I know I would’ve regretted it.

You know, you kind of turn your feet outward when you walk, so do I. It’s never been a problem, but I thought it was funny to see it from behind for once. I think you and I would have maybe been friends if we went to school together or something. Or maybe not? You’re really pretty and I can be kind of strange—not many people get my humor. But you also seem like the type of girl who would laugh at my stupid jokes and not chime in when the boys made fun of my flat chest and frizzy hair. You seem like a really good person and that’s why I noticed you and why I followed you into the park in the least suspicious manner I could muster.

When you stopped and sat down on the park bench, I figured that you were expecting someone. Your face was still locked onto the screen of your phone and it seemed like you were waiting. I took Rufus off his leash, even though he never strays more than three feet away from me, but I like to give him the sense that he can do whatever he wants. Who am I to drag him wherever I want to go? You might’ve seen me, well, you looked up in my direction, but you were probably just thinking. I do that a lot too—stare off into space. Anyway, I didn’t watch you for long because you got up pretty quickly and stormed off after a few minutes. Rufus and I trailed after you again, but only because this is Brooklyn and the park wasn’t that busy. It felt like the right thing to do, to make sure that you made it out of there okay. And you did, obviously, so sorry for thinking you couldn’t handle yourself.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that even though I don’t know you, I think you are worthy and special. So much so, that the only reason you’re even holding this letter is because I felt so compelled to tell you what I wish someone would’ve done for me at least once. It seemed like you were heading home so I kept following you, telling myself that I would only go on for another ten minutes and by minute six we were already in front of your apartment building. It was hard for me to tell which apartment you were in and I thought it would be weird for me to ask the doorman who you were, so I pulled out the notebook from my bag and started writing this. You’re going to have to leave eventually, so my plan is to just wait until you’re on your way out again, which is probably soon since it’s a Saturday and I’m sure you have plans. And don’t worry about Rufus — you seem like the type who would care—I always pack some treats for him, just in case.

Hopefully, future me doesn’t freak you out too much. I’m preparing her for what she should say, if I let her say anything at all. I think it might be best if I just have her say you dropped this and walk away. That seems like the least threatening way to go about doing this because I really want you to read this letter and to know that you’re beautiful and you deserve the best and forget that guy, if that’s why you were so upset when I saw you walking out of that coffeeshop on Bedford.


A Concerned Neighbor


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