Debby takes the sting out of the day by sitting beneath the flowering trees, painting her fingernails, and looking at the men who pass along the street in front of the sloping lawns. Occasionally, she might be distracted by the blast of a traffic horn, or the buzz of a fly, or the insolent shouts of a group of teenagers. But none of this really bothers her very much. She doesn’t have any pressing reason to be interested or intimidated by any of it. A man sat next to her, in this spot, last Friday afternoon. She’d just finished a coat of yellow polish, and was holding her hands up to the sky, and blowing on the nails once or twice. The man said it was a nice shade of yellow. She thanked him, of course – when it comes to manners, she’s very careful. The man said that he really meant it, about the nail polish, and she said she was sure he did. He smiled. She smiled. But she looked away, to where two women were talking loudly about a third person. The third person was also a woman. The talk was office talk. Very boring. The two women noticed her looking, but they didn’t lower their voices. Debby imagined them back at their desks, being sugary to the third person. She began to feel as if she were the third person. When she looked back at the man who liked her nails, he’d walked away. She couldn’t see him anywhere. She tried to recall what he’d been wearing, but couldn’t, and she found it difficult to remember even the expression on his face. All she had left was his voice.
© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2014