Friday, October 29, 2010


I steered the rental car into a small space in front of a hardware store, my thoughts racing through the next steps of my plan. I took a deep breath before exiting the car and then pulled my coat more snugly around me. It was 10:15 on a chilly morning in a small town off the coast of Oregon and I was on a mission. With long confident strides, I walked two blocks to a diner where I stood in front of the large plate glass window scanning the faces of the few costumers sitting at tables.

She wasn't there. I didn't expect her to be there at this hour. I didn't know her well. Really not at all anymore. We'd known each other a few brief years when I was in my twenties. Only recently had I stumbled across her again. The little information I had came from posts she'd written on websites I occasionally contributed to.

I knew a little bit though. She frequently self disclosed things about herself, perhaps without realizing it. Most likely she was walking down the cobble stone path that led from her home to the sharp sands of the bay. Sand made by the constant tearing down of rock and sea shells by blustery winds and the tides. Although I found it ironic, I was not surprised that she would chose to live near such a process.

I'd worn my fashionable, but functional, boots so I could also walk the shoreline. I didn't know if I would meet her, but my nose had begun to run and my fingers tingled in the cold. Movement would be good. I turned left and walked two more blocks before turning onto the pedestrian path that would eventually lead me to the bay area. The wind picked up, pushing back at me. Still, I walked briskly.

There were few passers-by. I studied each of them, looking for any of the tell-tale signs that I had become to know so well. I'd been walking for half-an-hour and had reached the point of the bay. Picking up a shell and pulling a thin length of ribbon from my pocket, I tied my tiny creation to a tree. She'd mentioned this tree in one of her posts. It was more beautiful than she had described. I saw the bits of decay and hopelessness she had gone on and on about in one of her posts. I watched the little shell dance in the wind. I could also see what she could not or had not. A place people came to hold onto and celebrate their hopes and dreams. I caught my tiny shell and rubbed my thumb over it's rough surface while I made my wish.

My heart beat lighter. With the wind at my back, I meandered back to the diner. It was nearing noon. My cheeks were whipped a bright red. In the warmth of the small diner, my eyes watered. A coffee mug of hot tea warmed my fingers as I chatted amiably with the waitress. We talked about the weather and history of the town. The clock said 1:00 as I finished my tea and settled my bill. As I stood to leave, she walked into the diner.

She wore her white hair short. Her deeply wrinkled skin made her look 10 years older than she really was. She carried a small notebook with her and walked with a sense of purpose. I watched her walk toward me, unaware of my presence. I took two steps, blocking her way. She dismissed me as if I were still the child in her classroom. I stepped back two steps and then raised my hand high in the air.

She hesitated a fraction of a second. It was too long. The slap rang across the diner. Having caught her largely off-guard, she fell into the counter. Her notebook and pen fell to the floor. She looked up at me, her hand instinctively covering her offended cheek. I saw a reflection of myself, 20 years younger, in her face. The shock and horror, the confusion and surprise. I smiled broadly. "Now you know how you affected me for 4 long years." Stepping past her, I walked to the door, my head held high. Nodding at the cute couple just walking in, I called to the waitress over my shoulder, "She's wrong. Breaking rules is fun."

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