Monday, January 20, 2014

A woman sitting on a bench, part 2

Another entry in the 500 Word Challenge, this is a direct continuation from here.

You cannot yet state precisely why this is. There is nothing outwardly striking about her appearance--no capes or clown shoes, no Capuchin monkey skittering across her shoulders, no harlequin scarf kiting across the breeze.

And yet, her appearance is that of someone singularly not belonging on a park bench.

Lolly tugs forward on her leash like she's concerned about missing her target heart rate; she has no patience for your slowing to speculate.

The shoes? Brown pumps. Likely not "brown" but rather "chocolate" or "mahogany" or "old growth forest" or some other proper color for a woman's shoe, but in any case not a sensible walk-in-the-park shoe.

Slacks and blouse leave a similar impression; this is someone dressed in the upper range of business casual, not someone who planned to sit on a park bench on a chilly, overcast morning. Were there any doubt, the incongruity of the coat settles it; this dingy white coat, a stoutly functional marshmallow that must dwell neglected on her closet's floor, surely was grabbed in desperation, a pivotal, decisive act altering the course of her morning.

This is a woman accustomed to driving from covered parking to covered parking, free from the imposition of weather; she keeps her expensive jacket hanging in the back of her car. She didn't take the time to fetch it.

A woman who composes herself with care has forsaken her appearance to grab what was likely the only available jacket in her wardrobe offering practical warmth. She chose this rather than take the time to change into appropriate park attire. She knew she needed to act on the moment--any delay, the inconvenience of changing, and her resolve would be gone. Again.

She's been thinking about something for a long time, then. And only today, this morning, has her fortitude prevailed. She came here to think. No, not only to think: to decide.

Again the feeling that you shouldn't be here. At the gazebo she sits, deeply engaged in an intimate, conflicted moment of decision. A woman sitting on a bench, standing on a razor's edge. You're walking straight at her, Lolly driving forward, the slavering hound and the unwashed oaf with the flamboyant walking sneakers. There are no detours.

What to do?

Plow resolutely forward? Avoid eye contact, hope Lolly doesn't park at the woman's knees? Hope your bit of antisocial behavior doesn't tip the scales of her decision?

You're closing fast.

Maybe pause to throw out a bit of Zen wisdom in passing? What was your last fortune cookie? "You will soon go on a long journey." That might work. But to what end? Do you dare disturb her universe?

Mere steps now.

Sit next to her on the bench and play social worker? Listen to her dilemma, steeple your fingers and bestow sage advice? "That must be hard," you'll say. Always a good opener. Listen carefully, then close with a coin flip?

We're here, and Lolly the friendly, huffing dog has stopped to sit at the woman's chocolate or mahogany or old growth forest shoes. Lolly isn't one to overthink matters, and she has decided that this woman needs a dog to pet.

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