“What are you listening to?”, he asked her as she awkwardly glanced up from a laptop covered in stickers.
There was a time when people like this would bother her, eager, curious men looking to bait her curiosity through something she seemed passionate about.
She noticed his old jacket, cuffs torn from wear, faded blue, forgotten yet loved all the same. Two small pins stuck on its right breast pocket; symbols she did not recognize, or maybe she did, she couldn’t be sure. In this shaken state anxiety clouded her memory to the point of annoyance and distraction. Fuzzy, tangled brown hair, thin silver framed glasses resting on his nose, he had a look on his face that frustrated her. Something between confusion and acceptance.
She realized he had left a few moments later, her gaze met his for a moment and he recognized her need to be left alone. Did she know him?
Her croissant was cold now but she hardly noticed as she took occasional bites. Flakey crumbs had split off and left a greasy mess on her keyboard as she wiped them away. Focus broken she rest her face in the palms of her hands not realizing others nearby started to take notice of her.
Focus. Eyes closed for a time, red was all she could see until a deep breath filled her with calm enough to open them again and discovered he was sitting across from her now. Their eyes met and she froze, confused until she remembered her name, her skin, her breath, and her legs nervously shaking under the table. A smile found its way to her face and she stood up, packed up her things then left the small coffee shop without saying a word.
He sat at the table for a time wondering where he went wrong, was it the breakfast he offered her? Was cereal not enough of a welcoming gesture after a night spent with a stranger? Earlier that morning they lay together in bed, legs twisted together as sunlight cast a warm glow on their bodies. Up until that blank look in her eyes moments ago he thought they had made a real connection. Did he know her?
Their names were etched into the now empty table, understated and at peace. The air was still, the noise of other guests swelled then vanished into the pure white of time. A phone rang but no one cared to answer.
In unison, voices around the world echoed out into a deftly constructed void. Prayers, focused and pure, circled the atmosphere. Through all this noise time is bound to make a few mistakes. From this angle, even God had trouble understanding how this managed to happen.
She found her way to a bus stop but realized she had forgotten her favorite scarf on the back of her chair and imagined it tying itself into knots, hiding from anyone who may have noticed it there. Time grew bright and vengeful around her but she chose to forget it, let today be what it is.
At this same moment, two blocks over, she also stood in an empty lot, scarf tied loosely around her neck, warm and comforted she looked down at her feet, faint smile across her lips, and gripped his hand a little tighter.
He sat alone on a bench in a park he did not immediately recognize and looked down at her scarf twisted in knots on his lap. The hollow beat of a drum pounded somewhere behind a rusted garage door and his head started to nod along. An expression hard to place came over his face as he started to hover a few inches above the bench. No one noticed but God. The rhythm set in motion nearby left him euphoric but disoriented.
The air felt thick on his skin as he floated there, drifting among waves of foamy white. He felt his hands start to speak for him as the rest of his body disappeared and his head was filled with images of the ocean stuck looping at fractured speeds.
Focus. Eyes closed he could only see red, thick and opaque. He knew he had to open them but was afraid. He felt five soft fingers slip into his hand and squeeze tight. Terrified, he opened his eyes and she was there in front of him surrounded in pure white. Her eyes were filled with tears that began to drip down into an uncontrollable smile as the white began to dim into the color and shape of a city.
The bus pulled into an empty stop as the sun set over a field where they stood hand in hand, confused, terrified, but ready for whatever was to come next.
(Written earlier today out of the blue while sitting down to work on a separate post meant to be the first one of the new year here on 50ft. The other post, not yet finished was about perspective and its importance in our lives but somehow, this story was waiting in my mind instead. I tied up loose ends and did my best to polish it up so I could share it. Hope some of you enjoyed it!)
(Desktop of the image posted along with it now available below. It is a film scan and was upscaled to fit the high resolutions of modern screens FYI.)