I nodded and didn’t speak. His eyes seared through me. I reached up and pulled him towards my lips. They were soft on mine.
“Different sort of meditating now. Things are different for me today. I can’t explain it. I feel different.”
He wrapped his arms around me. I felt the small sketchbook against my back. He was much taller than me, and my head barely reached to his shoulder. Yet, I fit with him, perfectly.
“Come on.” He pulled me towards the steps facing the Tidal Basin. We sat down and watched the tourists walk around the memorial and the ducks crowded around the bread tossed into the edge by small children and their parents.
“Before the earthquake in LA, I used to work hard and play hard. I helped my dad grow his business. We made a lot of money on top of what we already had. I moved our office to LA because I believed there was even more money to be made. I traveled during the down times. Surfed the biggest waves, skied the biggest mountains, and explored the most remote places I could afford.”
“That sounds amazing.”
“It was, except, I wasn’t happy.” He put his sketchbook into his bag and stared at me. “After the earthquake, I came back here and stayed with my parents for a bit. They had an apartment in the building where my loft is. I took time just to be. Part of my rehab was walking. I did a lot of walking, but I also did a lot of seeing my city. It’s an awe inspiring place.”
I nodded, looking out at the Washington Monument.
“Yeah, that’s why I enjoy staying here between cases. The history is incredible,” I said.
He opened his bag and pulled out a bigger sketchbook and handed it to me.
“You’re right, historically this place is incredible. I’m talking about the people who live here right now.” He pointed to the people walking around. “The people who visit, each one of them has a story. Just like you. I try to see them and capture their stories in my sketches. The ones I think I have, I paint. I’ve spent the last few years studying people.”
I flipped through the sketchbook. The first page was of a family in front of the reflecting pool with the Lincoln memorial behind. That was out of focus, and the children’s faces were most pronounced. Their joy and happiness filled the page. The next page was a couple whose hands were intertwined, walking past a wall with people’s names etched across them. Their shape was almost like a heart. Each page depicted various human emotions of happiness, pain, or even sadness. The latter being me sitting at the Round Robin Bar at the Willard.
“I drew this when I met you that first night a few years ago. I invited you to go out with me, but you said no.” His eyes beamed with excitement. I looked sad in the picture.
“I wasn’t sad. I was angry that Cook had lazily argued our case. I didn’t feel good that night either,” I said.
He flipped through the book to another sketch of me coming out of a car. My face was distinct. Relaxed. Almost happy.
“This was one I created a year ago. You had just arrived, and I was leaving work.”
My eyes gazed at the hotel sketch in wonder.
I looked through the other sketches of children, families, politicians, and other nameless people who he had captured at the famous sites or just living their lives.
He snatched the book from my hands and jumped up, grabbing my hand as he pulled me around the memorial.
“Come on! We’re getting on that bus.” We sprinted to the other side of the memorial, panting. The bus arrived, Jordan waved at the driver and he waved back. We boarded the bus and Jordan shook the bus driver’s hand.
“Jesus, this is my friend Katie. She’s never been on a double-decker bus.”
He fist bumped me. “Welcome. Any friend of the boss man is a friend of mine.” Jesus said.
I looked at Jordan and mouthed, “Boss man?”
He smiled and guided me to the top deck of the bus. There was a small family who smiled at us.
He opened up his bag and pulled out the small sketchbook. He traced some lines that eventually looked like the small child between the parents.
“I haven’t done this since eighth grade. Why did you tell him I never went on the tour?” I said and leaned against the railing.
“Technically, you didn’t finish the tour. Jesus is good, but I think I’ll be better.”
He kept sketching in the small book. He had already put away the bigger sketch book.
“Watch out for the branches. He drives pretty close.”
Just then a tree branch hit the front of the bus and I moved, narrowly missing the smack of the leaves.