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The Look (Short Story)

Filmore Street, San Francisco, California

It's another day in the city.

The sun shines down upon us passerby, grateful to be going on about our lives without some fool shooting up the curb or yelling some misread prayer before blowing himself up. This day, we all walk slowly, nonchalantly, laughing amongst ourselves as we carry on about our business.

As usual, I'm alone in the crowd. My earbuds relay low-level hip-hop so I can keep my wits about me. My left hand is in my worn jean pocket, clasping my wallet to keep it away from pickpockets. My right hand holds the drawstring that secures what few possessions I have in a olive-green bag. It's not much, just dollar store toiletries and a few changes of clothes, but its mine, and I'm prepared to fight for it.

I've just eaten cheap Chinese food. I have no idea where I'm going, but I have a little money, so lodging won't be a problem tonight. My body aches, my ribs burn. It's a grim reminder that I will either have to heal quickly or risk severe injury earning my next meal.

I feel her before I see her. I know the color of her eyes before we connect.

She's alone in a crowd, too. She's several feet away and closing uncomfortably fast. As soon as she sees that I see, she immediately blushes. Her mouth closes. The smile stays.

Oh, crap.

My lunch feels like its about to come back up. I'm suddenly sweating through my clothes. Every other person in the world vanishes as this short (I'm over six feet tall, so everyone is short to me), raven-haired girl and I approach one another as if drawn together.

Time slows. I take in the details. I wonder if she's doing the same as we continue walking towards one another, exchanging furtive glances.

She's about five feet eight and wearing too many clothes for this time of year. Her pants are baggy, her beige jacket sleeves are lanky, and a skull cap completes the look. She laughs a lot. I can see that in her face as we get closer.

She's beautiful.

We come to within a few feet of one another. Close enough to smell what the other is wearing. Vanilla, in her case.

She looks up at me and we live a lifetime in a few moments. We haven't much in common materialistically, but we have both been burned enough to know how we should be treated. We support one another. We laugh together. We touch, hold hands, enjoy fifty years of good living in each others company.

She brushes past my left shoulder, still looking at me surreptitiously out of her peripheral vision. My throat tightens. Words fail.

And then, just like that, she's behind me.

I don't stop walking, not for a moment, not as promises of what can never be race through my mind. No, I can't say anything. But I can look back.

When I do, I'm surprised to see her continuing on, but looking back over her shoulder at me.
She smiles fully this time and waves.
I hold up the peace sign. Another time.
I turn back and continue on my aimless path, another beautiful day in the city.


J. A. Busfield said…
Love this: "She looks up at me and we live a lifetime in a few moments."

Goodness. I know that feeling.

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