12.23.2013 Journal Prompt

Photo by Vivian Maier
Photo by Vivian Maier

December 23, 2013: They were headed somewhere.

One Reply to “12.23.2013 Journal Prompt”

  1. They were headed somewhere. That much was clear. All their belongs packed into two suitcases and they were looking at the bus timetable and checking the money in her purse and shaking their heads and looking again at the times of buses.

    He was a tall man, not standing straight, as if he might be shouldering a burden. He was maybe in his thirties, though his face was drawn and lined with worry. He kept touching the woman he was with, just his hand touching her arm or the small of her back, as if he needed to be sure she was still there. And he smiled when she looked at him, no strength in his smile but a smile all the same.

    She was shorter, her hair pulled back into a single untidy plait, like a woven corn dolly made by a child. And she, too, was stooped, unnecessarily, and she leaned into the man seeking for his touch or his warmth.

    I thought they were a sad looking couple, as though they had suffered some small tragedy and were now trying to put a distance between themselves and what had happened. It was not difficult to speculate on their story. Times were hard in St. Cloud. They were hard everywhere, but with the factory closing down and cuts to Centracare and the state laying off in numbers, even the street beggars were moving elsewhere in search of bigger pickings.

    Suddenly the man reached out and kissed the woman, kissed her on her forehead, as one might kiss a child, and he held her then and he looked past her to where I was seated. Maybe it was my fancy, but I thought there was a plea for some sort of help in his look. I smiled and nodded and I shifted uneasily in my seat.

    Then the girl turned and from the tender way she stroked her stomach what had been hidden was now obvious: she was expecting. She lifted her face to the man and she said something, all her words small as whispers, and she smiled. The man put one hand where her hand had been, his head cocked on one side as though he was listening, as though the baby moving inside her might be speaking to him. It was an intimate picture and it would later be the subject for a piece I intended to write. I stared intently at the couple, taking in every small detail, stealing from them. The way his shirt collar was upturned and his shoelaces undone, as though he had dressed in a hurry and without the usual care; the jut of his chin that had not seen a razor in days and his hair all this way and that and not neat; the eyes of the girl, blue even at a distance, and the taper of her fingers, a study in grace, and her feet in heavy boots and set squarely on the sidewalk so as not to risk falling.

    They got on the bus to Sauk Rapids and there was some negotiation with the driver before he issued them with a ticket. The man shook the bus driver’s hand and so I thought there had been some kindness there. I got up from my seat and helped the man carry his suitcases onto the bus. I never said a word and nor did the man. I pressed a few dollars into his hand, all that I had in my pocket, and he nodded and he watched me from the bus window until they bus was far off.

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