Late afternoon. Cloudy. Row after of row, cars slink toward the horizon. You study the license plates as you pass. Most are from here. The occasional from a neighboring county. From between the cars you see her. She's coming back from break. She smiles, waves. You look down at your shoes, scuffed. At the pavement, stubbled. You're sweating because it's hot. Sweating because it's hot. Because it's hot. Because you want to say something. Anything. But nothing comes to mind. In seconds you'll meet. Pass side by side. She'll smile, wave again. Have something to say. You should. You've practiced at home. In the car. Conversations. Held with her for hours. In your head. Now, in person. Where it would mean something. And she's smiling. You could speak. You could say, "Next time, how bout we go together? My treat." You could say anything, really. Anything would be fine. Anything for a start. Get the ball rolling. And even if she declined, she would know you were interested. At least she would know. You would know. You could move forward. Instead of being stuck. Always stuck. And she's right there. She would know. You would know. You're almost abreast. And she's slowing. She wants you to say something. Wants you to say something. So open your mouth. Make conversation. All the words you've practiced. Anything, really. Before she. Before. There's only so much before. Before no words come. Only so much. "I guess I'll see you inside," she says. And you see the red highlights that were not there yesterday. Not there before. Before, you said nothing. But still you could. Could start the ball rolling. As she walks away. As you hear the scuff of her sneakers. As the words slink away like light toward the horizon.
Mark McKee is from the American south. In his spare time he collects nervous breakdowns. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in decomP, A cappella Zoo, and others. Find him at markmckeejr.tumblr.com.