Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Mark R. Trost
I hopped my way through the parking lot trying to save my shoes from the slushed. I peered down and nearly plowed her into a puddle. I had volunteered at a hospital for a couple of years and she had been a patient more than a couple of times. She's a simple woman with complex needs. "Oh I'm sorry!" The words skipped through my mouth as my shoes slipped.
"Hi!" she screamed. "I know you!"
My eyes fleeted from my feet and recognized her face, "Hi! How are you?"
She giggled, "You're the man that sits in that chair!"
"Well not anymore," I apologized. "But I used to. How are you feeling?"
"I feel pretty good!" she said through her smile.
"I'm glad," I returned her beam. "I'm sorry I bumped into you."
"Oh that's ok," she took her hand and touched my sleeve. "I'm supposed to be over there." She pointed to a bus stop.
"Can I walk with you over there?" I asked.
"No you don't have to," she shook her head. "You don't have to talk to me."
Her words pierced my heart and shattered it. "But I want to talk to you," I said as I swallowed the shards. "Here, let's walk over there."
"Really?" she grinned.
"Sure," I nodded.
"Ok," she laughed.
I stopped with her until her bus arrived. She told me all her news. I didn't have to talk to her; she was so excited that someone listened. The irony wasn't wasted on me. She boarded her bus, paid her fare, and waved her farewell from her seat.
I turned and walked into the restaurant. I sipped a silent sob down my throat as I gulped my beer at the bar. I occupied my mind so my conscience couldn't be occupied with my imperfections. I played with the words while I waited: pale ale - pales in comparison - whatever ails you - pails of ails. I waited for my companion with my head down, my back bent, and my eyes on my glass so that I didn't have to talk to anyone.
"You don't have to talk to me," she said. Had I been a better man I would have told her the truth. I would have lifted my hand and pointed to my collarless throat and said, "I'm not where I'm supposed to be either." But I stood silently still said nothing.
Mark R. Trost
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