The subway entrance was a black hole for wildlife, she'd decided. First the butterfly, winging its way up and down the staircase, then the starling circling the windowed ceiling, then the squirrel zipping his way back up the bannister, all within the space of a week, each apparently compelled to enter the man-made entryway, drawn by an invisible gravitational force, but to what purpose none of them knew. The dragonfly, however, was the only creature whose presence in the station made her not only stop and watch for a moment, but sit down.
She'd never seen anything like it before. The body was an electric shimmering green-blue, a color she had thought could only be found within the confines of a nail polish bottle. The wings were solid black. Not the transparent wings she imagined dragonflies to have, kinetic wisps, leaves robbed of their chlorophyll. Instead, there was no texture visible in these wings: they were black like a new chalkboard, matte. She got the sense that touching them would result in a small tak sound, a nail against a jade ring.
The double wing pairs opened and closed in thoughtful layers as the dragonfly rested on a low stair. Down-down, up-up. There was a flirtation in the small movement. A lethargy that comes with the knowledge of admiration. She pulled her gaze from the dragonfly's wings as a man drags his eyes away from the slow leg-cross of a woman whose attention he should not be seeking. She met the dragonfly’s eyes. It tilted its head at her. It washed its face like a cat with its front set of legs.
She settled her backpack over both shoulders, pulled her sleeves down over her hands, reached forward — careful to keep the dragonfly between herself and the sun so that her shadow did not anticipate her movements — and scooped the insect into her cupped palms. There was a second of silence. Then, the dragonfly beat its wings lightning-quick against her hands. Brrrrrrt. Brrrrrrt. Then silence again.
She walked up the stairs and out of the station, the dragonfly intermittently and rhythmically fluttering in her grasp. Two palpitating bursts, like the ring of an old-fashioned phone, then stillness so complete that each time she wondered against logic if perhaps the dragonfly had vanished... until the next vibration drummed against her palms. Brrrrrrt. Brrrrrrt.
She walked out of the station and into the neighboring park. She walked past the open grassy fields where there was nothing to attract the eyes, nothing to break a flight back towards the street and the station, stopping instead only after she reached a raised flowerbed filled with blue and purples and yellows. She released the dragonfly, and turned without watching its chosen path of departure.
She once took a picture of a man selling fruit in Italy on the side of the road only to have him start approaching her as she lowered the camera to her side. She was certain he was going to ask for money in exchange for the photograph, but instead he gave her directions to a scenic village nearby. It was not in the direction she was heading. As she got back in her car, she looked back to wave at him, but he faced steadfastly away from her as he returned to his fruit stand. It was a matter of pride, she realized. It would hurt his honor too much if he saw that she failed to take his suggested route. So too was it a matter of pride when she turned from the dragonfly, not wanting it to see the loss in her eyes when he didn't follow her home, expose himself to be magical clockwork, and grant her three wishes.