A revised version of two people who have lost touch over the years
|I quickened my pace as the lights of the busy city receded and the street seemed to narrow. I pulled my scarf around my face as the wind whipped a plastic Kohl’s bag around the base of street light. The light from the lamp cast a dim shadow of no more than three feet in diameter. I shuddered at what the darkness beyond held. I stayed out of this neighborhood at night as a rule. But the project that kept me at work late could land me the biggest promotion of my professional career. I tried to think about my new office with the placard on the wall, “Janet Langely, Project Manager,” as I passed an alley. I saw four figures huddled over a garbage can fire and prayed my feet to get me to the bus stop as soon as possible.
“Only four more blocks,” I whispered into my scarf. I pulled my hat down over my burning forehead and ears as the wind blew another mighty gust. Head down, I walked full force into something soft but solid.
“Excuse me ma’am.” The man smelled of vodka and the stench of living on the streets. His fur coat was matted and stained. I pulled my purse closer and cursed the fact that I’d quit carrying pepper spray. I tried to side step. The man blocked my path. He was a full head taller than me. I couldn’t tell, through his layers of clothing, if he was large enough to do terrible damage to me. My heart raced. I could hear the bus coming up behind me. I saw a vision of my apartment, my mom, my home town. I wanted to be anywhere but here.
“Let me pass. I’ll miss my bus.” I tried to keep my voice from quivering, but the words didn’t come out as confidently as I hoped they would.
“Spare a dollar?” The man smiled to reveal yellow-stained and chipped teeth. An odor somewhat like dead fish swam out of his mouth on the sea of vodka scent. The city bus pulled past me to the end of the block, but I knew if I screamed it would be for naught. People didn’t help each other in the city like they did in the small town where I was raised.
“I’ve got to get to the bus.”
“Please ma’am. I’ve not eaten in three days.”
I pulled a bill from my wallet, not caring the denomination. As I handed it to the man, I realized I knew his eyes. I’d looked into them before – it seemed in another life.
“Doug?” I shuddered again. My heart told me to stay, but my mind forced me to go. “I have to catch my bus.”
I ran to the opened door on trembling legs. I grabbed the railing and reefed my weak body onto the bus. As the bus lurched forward I ran to the back to get one more look at Doug, my high school sweetheart. The last time I saw him was shortly after graduation. He had a full football scholarship at a college three states away from where I was accepted. We knew the long distance romance would never last, so we broke it off that summer. We grew up as neighbors and ended our teen years as boyfriend and girlfriend. What happened in the ten years since? He had a beautiful, bright future in front of him last time I saw him. I was sure he’d go pro.
As I stared through the back window of the bus, Doug blew me a kiss and waved before slinking back down the alley. I sunk into the seat, still staring out into the dark street. It seemed he’d lost himself along the way to the NFL.
My grandfather’s last words rang in my ears as the bus picked up speed, “Remember, Janie, there will always be two paths you can take. There will always be a choice. Follow your gut. Follow your instincts, and the right path will reveal itself.”
Word Count: 675