….you enter. And, everything changes. The world outside changes. The world inside changes. Time passes without your knowledge. You watch clips of randomly passing lives-
…the old lady who can’t quite keep her teeth in…the old man with sagging pants and a belt flapping down as he walks…the 14 year olds giggling as they pass a boy with the face of Venus, complete with the nearly exploding volcanos…the mother, slouching against the buggy, her eyes tearing, as her two boys run like errant drones into the grocery aisles…the disappointed, hat down, and eyes staring at the floor, glancing up, trying not to make eye contact…and the selfie queen, smiling for her unseen audience, her face painted with too much red, flashing sudden smiles…
and you slow down, because time feels like it has slowed down.
you cross to the right side, passing the corner hospitality cart where a frumpy-but- smiling woman tries to hand you a small plastic container of a mini chicken croissant. she continues, even after you shake your head, and turn away…an onslaught of clothing carousels threatening, as a faster vehicle rips through the dangling arms and into your way…
…survival. you remember more from “the list,” that crumpled paper lost somewhere in the parking lot…or blown across the berm…until you see…the figure. as much as you desire to look away, you cannot, you must not. like blackened pools with nothing floating on them…they do not stare, they pierce….and you must look, but your mind tells you to turn away…turn away. don’t get involved. this is not my concern.
but it is…you feel it in your gut, the ache, the pain. the well. the tender-pained well. you touch more than a surface. I cannot look away, even if…but you do not want to. you see her for where she is…the tattered threads at the end of her left coat arm, the scraped lip, the eyes that open too wide for just a second…then close to protect…you are near her, she makes no move to look up. you can hear her breathing. you can feel her breath. like stale tuna. you want to look away. you want to escape, you want to find time again. where is time? it is nowhere. she is here and you cannot look away, because she is pleading. but there are no words in her eyes. so you walk, and turn to look, and the figure is not there…she is walking away.
….and you drive back into the sunshine, four grocery bags on the back seat.
as night invites himself in, the lights dim, and you find yourself yawning in the mirror. I have bags under my eyes. my eyes. you notice the gray hair on your shoulder, and wipe it off. time slows. you see beyond the mirror. you see her sitting on that bench, the coat, the arm. you see her walk away, never turning back to look. but you look. in your dream now. in the waking night. in your thoughts now.
I cannot forget.
and as you lay down, curled up in blankets, all alone, you pray…because it is all you can do. and somewhere in the distance, separated by space, not by time, another figure awake on her bed…unseen tears on her face…
in a microsecond of time.