She ambles at a deliberate pace, slowed by time and arthritis. What used to be ten minutes is now an arduous battle against nature and gravity, and these last few minutes of uphill crawl are particularly excruciating. But she takes warmth from the sunlight and patience from memories, the doors to the library almost within grasp. Swarms of people are streaming at hyper-speed in a bid to steer around her, lost in isolated bubbles of thought and emotion. She can barely catch a glimpse before they're gone through the doors in a puff of importance and hurry.
It really is a beautiful day she thinks to herself, easing her mind away from the cramping joints. The lazy sun and cracked pavement take her back almost 50 years - to flowery dresses and red lipstick, to park benches and Oldsmobiles... to Frank. Across the candlelit table with flowers, grinning through the windshield with the kids tucked in the back, a bear hug for every time she felt sad. He held her hand through 40 years of bliss, right until the moment she found herself staring at his coffin and a teardrop in a white napkin. Frank, lugging the boxes across the hall as he reprimanded her, "A lady like you should never have to do grunt work." Frank, waiting patiently in the car while she finished gossiping after sewing class, "A lady like you should never have to walk alone." Frank, surprising her with vacations and white wine, "A lady like you should always be smiling." Frank...
Her reverie is broken as rock music brushes past her. He looks to be about 21 and in definitive haste, trying to sort out stock market rates and birthday gift ideas all in the minute to the elevator. He passes her and heads for the door, glancing back at her measured gait and wistful eyes, and he slows down. He hold the library door open and waits patiently as she makes the last few steps past him. She turns to thank him for the moment of kindness in a sea of impatience, an act that perhaps defies human nature and lives up to it all at once, but he hushes her with a single finger to his lips. "A lady like you should never have to open a door herself," he says as he walks away from her, and she finds herself standing there staring at him, and a teardrop falls into a white napkin.
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This work is copyrighted by the author, Venkatesh Subramanian. All rights reserved.