256 Words

Opportunity Missed

Wendy Williams

Walking home tonight, feeling tragic and solitary, I saw a Coke machine just next to the yellow 24-hour parking sign. I paused before it, instinctively, in a rooftop shadow. Strange how I could pass by the same fixture hundreds of times and never have taken notice of it. How could my steps have been so perfunctory? It glowed in the dark. It screamed to be seen.

There was a crooked old woman standing in front of it this particular night, completely still, an illuminated statue consuming and emitting the machine's energy. Wisps of hair stuck out adamantly on either side of her baggy, disheveled bun, giving a struck-by-lightening effect.

What was she thinking about, basking in the light that way? What imagination was stored away under her swooping black hair? What secret knowledge? Could she have felt the same feelings I've felt? The same pain? The same confusion? Did she hold answers I didn't? The light she radiated was enigmatic, enticing, consumptive.

I wanted to know her, but I was frightened by something I couldn't understand myself. My heartbeat swallowed all surrounding sound. I tried to lift a foot, but it was nailed to the pavement. At the same moment, she broke her pose. Four abbreviated steps toward the machine. She fumbled three coins into it, and hesitatingly extended a slender finger to select. In slow motion, she stooped to retrieve the can. She then half straightened herself, examined her purchase in the light of the machine, and limped into the darkness.

She never saw me.

Copyright ©1999 Wendy Williams. All Rights Reserved.

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September, 1999
Issue #41

256 Words