By C. McDermott

Andy walked to the subway station feeling unsettled, like he always did when he left the apartment early. Melissa and Andy—the other Andy—were still asleep. The other Andy was his six-year-old daughter. She wasn’t named for him; her name was Andromeda, after the Andromeda Galaxy—a name Melissa had chosen in honor of her interrupted astrophysics degree. Andy was fine with the name Andromeda, though. To him it said that his little daughter would shine like a constellation and be the most radiant object in the world. Plus, he knew that she would end up being called Andy for short.

Early as it was, the sidewalk on West 96th was already crowded. As Andy reached the station entrance he heard the rumble of an approaching downtown train. There was a line in front of the turnstile gate; annoyed, Andy had no choice but to join the crowd. Labor Day had been the 3rd of the month and was already well passed, a week ago yesterday. Today was just a regular Tuesday in September, and all of New York was back from the beach. Andy finally got his turn and jabbed his MetroCard at the turnstile, the card bending a few times before sliding through, just as the downtown A express pulled in. A few strides across the gum-spotted platform and Andy was inside the nearest car precisely as the doors shut. He grabbed a crossbar as the train began to move and closed his eyes. He could relax now—just ride, he told himself. He was still grouchy about the MetroCard; he missed the reassuring weight of old-style tokens.

It was Michael who had suggested coffee at 8:45 a.m. in the lobby of 2 World Trade. Just a quick hello was all he could do, Michael had said, before he had to get back upstairs for a 9:00 meeting. So, Andy would have to go far out of his way, first all the way downtown, then looping all the way back to midtown. Michael said he hoped Andy didn’t mind too much. Andy had agreed—of course Andy agreed. Michael used to be just another associate at Andy’s law firm, but now Michael was potentially important: an assistant general counsel for a branch of a big Japanese bank. And so, for a junior lawyer like Andy, a “contact”. Andy really didn’t mind; he liked Michael, as much as he liked anyone. Michael was a lovely guy. Michael could even have been a friend, if friends were something that Andy had anymore. But Michael was now like all the people Andy knew these days: they were either clients, or potential clients, or sometimes former clients—or else detested rivals or aggravating assholes. Beyond those types, were there any other kinds of people he knew? No. There were just strangers. And Melissa, and little Andy.

Andy—Andromeda. A name from Greek myths. Andy smiled as he thought of her back in their apartment. She would still be lying on top of a tangle of sheets with the early sun backlighting the drawn shade, its rays peeking around the edge of the building across the courtyard. Little Andy’s pajamas would be askew, and curls of hair would be plastered to her sweaty forehead.

He hadn’t been that much older than she is now—he had been eight—when his mother had let him buy that big-format book at his school book fair, The Iliad and the Odyssey for children. Simple, clear text, though he remembered struggling to follow the story. But the glory of that book was its pictures, lavish, vivid color illustrations all in the style of Attic vase paintings. Huge sloping eyes on the prows of ships, towering warriors, monsters, fearsome gods. Andy had been a solitary child, and that book had given him a new world to live in. For a year or more, his mind buzzed with gods and heroes; he was surrounded with teeming invisible drama.

There were woods and fields where he grew up, and he remembered spending that summer climbing the oak trees high up to where the solid trunks thinned into slender leafy fingers. He would be up where the wind would bend the tree branches and send him swinging wildly from side to side in vertiginous arcs, the ground wheeling far below in a confusion of scrambled gravity. In his imagination he would speak, shout; he would command the trees and the winds to act at his will, as if he were one of the magic gods in his book. From the height he would watch the sky and the clouds, watch sun and shadow cross the woods, and concentrate his mind—squinting his eyes, he would shout steely commands in his mind. I order the breeze to blow! The breeze shall blow, now! And the breeze did come—he remembered that distinctly. There would be an uncanny thrill when it actually seemed to obey his command. He could control the wind, call upon it to swing his treetop through the arc that he demanded.

“You say something?”

Andy opened his eyes and met a stare from an annoyed-looking balding man holding a folded newspaper. Their eyes were about twelve inches apart. Andy blinked, confused.

“You have something to say, pal?”

“No,” Andy replied.

The annoyed man looked back to his paper, justified. “Asshole,” the man muttered to himself, but loud enough for Andy to hear. Fuckhead, Andy said to himself.

The train slowed as it came to an express stop midtown and people shifted and pushed around Andy. The crowds were slow getting off the train; even slower were the new crowds squeezing back on. The train paused. Andy glanced at his watch. There was time, he was in good shape, he just had to be patient. Things would work out by themselves. He looked around the stopped train (past his angry neighbor) at the rows of waiting faces, bowed in identical bland expressions. Andy smiled again to himself, this time thinking of how—just about a year ago—all these so-so-serious people would have been shitting themselves about the Year 2000. How everyone had thought that Y2K bugs were going to crash everything—the electrical grid was going to fail, planes would fall from the sky, dams would burst, subways would halt. But nothing happened—no chaos, no disasters—and all those big expensive preparations: useless. The world had just needed to be a little patient. Y2K bugs were no more in control than a child in a tree pretending to be a Greek god. On an impulse Andy squeezed his eyes closed and concentrated hard.

I command this train to move!

Immediately the doors slid shut. The train lurched and pulled out of the station with a shrieking of metal wheels.

He opened his eyes. The lights along the tunnel wall flitted by. He felt a tickle of the old thrill.

As the train moved he thought again of his little Andy. Would she one day learn about Greek myths, including, presumably, the myth of Andromeda? Would she someday imagine that she could control the wind? Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, there were really no trees for a child to climb on their block. You’d have to cab it all the way to Central Park to find a decent tree, and asking your mother or father to take you would surely spoil the fun of being a wind goddess.

The swaying train slowed again, wheels keening: West 4th Street. Andy watched as the crowds jostled out, jostled in. Again, the crowds came to rest. Again, the doors of the car stayed open. A minute stretched by. Humid air seeping from the platform polluted the air conditioning. More minutes passed, and then more and more minutes passed, agonizingly. The doors stayed open. Andy waited.

Announcement: the train was being held in the station. Andy looked at his watch again. Fuck this, he thought, I’ll walk from here.

He pushed against the mass of bodies, out of the car and onto the platform. From West 4th Street he knew he could get out of the Village and to the far side of West Street, where he could walk downtown by the river without waiting for traffic lights.

Passing Hudson Street, Greenwich Street, his mood brightened. The September air was clean and the sky was impossibly blue. He got to the sidewalk along the river, and started hustling downtown as fast as he could without breaking into a run. He was going to be late; Michael would just have to understand. The Financial District skyline faced him, the sun full on his back. He was getting warm from walking so fast. A trickle of sweat ran into his collar.

The river flowed by to his right, dark, smooth, bulky like molded glass. It was still; there was not a ripple on the surface of the water, not a breeze. It was quieter here, away from the buildings that hemmed in the traffic sounds. Andy was getting winded. He strained to hear over his heavy breathing as he approached Canal Street, listening for any sign of wind: a rustle of trees, a tumbling newspaper, a plastic bag trapped on a fence. Still nothing: the only sounds were the trucks and cars on West Street, a scow far out on the river puttering upstream, the sound of a jet’s engine suddenly shifting to a loud whine as it came in low toward the city. He wiped his damp forehead and squinted his eyes closed. I command the wind to blow! He listened again, and then opened his eyes and looked: nothing. His eyes swept the huge empty sky, from New Jersey across the river all the way to the blocky buildings at the Holland Tunnel entrance, and then back again to the Twin Towers standing in between far downtown, like a pair of perfectly geometric crystals jutting insistently into the angular sunlight.

Andy stopped to rest, panting slightly. He listened hard for a sound—any sound—to come from the trees along the verge of West Street. But there was no breeze; he had called up nothing. He heard only that boat, those cars. The drone of that plane getting louder overhead. He gazed at the towers downtown. There was not a breath of wind.