Reflection by Christopher Werkman

So now what? Your move, Mr. Smartguy. Riding the subway from your minimal-wage job, bussing in a diner catering to the human equivalent of go-to-work clunkers. Sadly, you recognise you’re no standout in that worn linoleum service station. The waitresses crack gum, continually brush oily tendrils of bleached hair from their heavily-mascaraed eyes and screw you out of your share of tips like it’s an Olympic event. [private]Your boss hollers “Iraq!” instead of Eric. Yes, you are dark with dark eyes, but not Middle-Eastern. You stay primarily because he lets you gobble table scraps. Your expenses dropped dramatically with the no-smoking laws; customers no longer stub out on their leftovers. Helps to afford the closet-size apartment you share with leaky pipes and a cat that acts like she took you in. At least invading wolf spiders devoured the roaches.

So, Mr. Smartguy. The money rests on the floor near the seat of the only other passenger in the car. Dropped from her purse? She’s not Playboy material, but her blouse is crisp and white, shoes unscuffed. Additionally, she has serenity. Even in the raucous cacophony of the train, you sense a wrap of tranquillity surrounding her. You’re drawn to this girl, but reality slaps you wise. Maybe in a parallel universe somewhere, a chick like this would be interested in you, but you’ve never found its entranceway. Odours of stale grease and dish detergent aren’t seductive.

Your stop is next. Better make a decision. You can’t see the denomination. Probably not huge, but it could be a ten. Twenty? Not enough to change your life, but even five would add comfort.

There’s something about the way she sways with the bucking subway car; in rhythm, like women you saw riding horses on television. The tilt of her head bespeaks a naive openness that endears and provokes your protective impulses. You cave. Step over and pick up the money. She startles, eyes wide and brimming with wonder. You unfold it. Not one. Two twenties. A breath stabs your lungs, but you offer the bills.

Her head wags. The most delicate little smile breaks the silky smooth of her cheeks.
“It’s not mine.” Her lips part yet more. “Finders, keepers,” she giggles, happy for you. Your heart slams at your ribs. Two twenties. Nearly a day’s pay. The train slows and you brace. She gets up to leave. You follow her off, still wallowing in disbelief with a twenty clenched in each hand. She waves and starts down the platform.

“Wait.” The word leaps like a frog. She turns, eyes wide.

“Can I buy you some ice cream?”

Her fingers flutter to hide her grin. “I’m married.” She takes her hand away and her mirth dissolves. “You have kind eyes,” she adds, and walks away.

On the last leg home, you stop to look at your mirror image in shop windows. Was the girl right? you wonder. Or did she
merely mistake your kindness for her own, reflected back?[/private]

Christopher Werkman lives on five acres with Karen and six cats. A retired teacher, he still instructs a course at University of Toledo, and driver training for the love of it. He paints, but his passion is writing fiction when he isn’t playing golf or tennis, or riding his motorcycle.


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