He walks a few paces ahead of her and it might as well be a million miles because you can almost hear his mind working on getaway plans. He’s got the kind of vibe that relies on muscle memory, passionless. He’s wearing a collared white shirt and faded jeans and a look on his face that wants to be anywhere but here.
She owns a pair of eyes that must’ve ruled the world inside every single night of some other time and place before now. Dusty cobalt ringlets that spin like virgin promises, with raven winged daggers anchoring the sides as if rooks in a game of chess. Those eyes have a look to them that doesn’t quit telling the truth, no matter how many lies she feeds them.
Their simple gold wedding bands remind me of sunken treasures as they trawl along the aisles in search of things they cannot buy. Their exchanges are skeletal meanderings of necessary dialogue. The only energy between them is given to silent wishes. She’s wishing she’d taken that chance with the cowboy Yankee who tended bar and played minor league ball and he’s wishing he’d kept that job in Austin, Texas. And they’re probably wondering if their best chances got lost on that highway to forever, and if they can ever get it back.
They pass an old man with a Vietnam Veteran baseball cap tucked inside his bushy red hair. He’s pushing hard on an age where every day is a blessing and every night is a curse. He talks to himself and calls her Patty, and you get the idea she’s the best idea he never got to keep. His cart is empty as he roams aimlessly through times and places that broke him and a fate that never put him back together again.
She politely moves around the old man in the baseball cap who’s talking to himself after which she mutters curse words to herself. She wonders what it must be like to have all day to do nothing with. Her life is a schedule. The kids have to be dropped off at her mother’s house . . then off to work . . a conference call . . another meeting . . pick up the kids and finish off their checklists for camp . . PTO meeting, Sometime around nine o’clock she’ll plug into some Rachmaninoff, pop a Lexapro and have her way with a bottle of Merlot. And she’ll disregard the texts from her piece of shit husband who wants to come home from purgatory after being banished for fucking the secretary. And she’ll just turn off her phone and thank whatever’s out there that she has two good reasons for waking up in the morning.
And to his eyes, she’s a perfect chance. The cougar on her phone, tapping her day to life as she waits in line. Smartly dressed . . a professional lady. An impression on her ring finger means she’s looking for revenge on some guy. Quick fix lunch packs in her cart means there are kids. Which is just fine with him. Kids were something they never got around to when she was still here. He hates that he blames her for leaving, because it wasn’t her fault; she never saw the tractor trailer that veered into her lane and took her away. And sometimes it feels to him as if that life he knew was happening five minutes ago, and sometimes it feels like it never happened at all. And the years have been cold and lonely and forever seems too long from here.
She glances back at him and smiles and it gives him something to work with. He wonders if the universe has erected a sign post at check lane seven, and before he can stop himself, he’s offering to pay for the item she mistakenly left in her cart while rushing through. And her smile tells him something and their exchange tells him more. And so what if it goes nowhere, and so what if he’s never going to find the thing he lost. He’s already lived the last chapter, so the chances are all that he has left.
He places a divider on the conveyor belt for the man in the collared shirt and blue jeans and the girl with the tired blue eyes.