Tuesday, May 15, 2012
By: Craig Sorensen
Collisions happen. Sometimes they are fatal, sometimes they are life changing. Sometimes they are just a tiny space in time.
Perhaps a space that will be as easily forgotten as it occurred.
In my prior job, the corporate offices were in a building constructed on a former pier that jutted out into the Hudson River. Standing at one end, looking to the other, could look like a three mile walk.
Naturally a fast walker myself, this could lead to a less-than-appropriate pace.
One day, I was late for a meeting on the Manhattan end, a woman stepped around the corner from the endless cube farm down the middle of the building at just the wrong time.
No one was hurt in the collision, but I did feel awful about running into her, and she was rightfully pissed at me, but the rapidity that her expression softened stuck in my head.
It was no more than three seconds in my half-century of life, an inconsequential moment, certainly not a pivot point in my life. It might well have been forgotten if my fiction writing mind hadn’t taken firm hold of the idea and begun to turn it over.
I wrote the formative ideas for the below not too long after the collision, then set it aside. I came back to it, changed it, shifted it and grew it. Could it really work into a story someone might like to read? I don't know; this was what came out. I guess this was a flash fiction exercise in “iceberg writing.” Not really a story itself, I built it on the idea of these two people, and set out to illustrate them in tiny fragments of a single moment where they crossed, showing only their gut reactions to an event, and hinted at a future.
Collision, ©2012 Craig J. Sorensen
It seems this building has no end. Narrow aisles like ladder steps, the crossbars occupied by the oblivious staff members of our most recent acquisition.
A Nevada desert road stretches to infinity.
No terrain. No rain. My meeting is at the far end, somewhere up there. Ledger sheets will lead to decisions that will affect the lives of every face that lies behind the nameplates along the hall. Nameplates I’ve never bothered to read. I turn my wrist. My steps lengthen and pound a fast rhythm.
My arms rise in reflex, one hand braces on a wool clad hip, the other arm steadies a narrow waist. Full breasts cushion my ribs like airbags deploy on collision.
“Bastard!” I don’t know the flower in her perfume; her breath is cayenne.
My voice goes up two octaves like a knee to the nuts. “Goddamn!”
Juicy tears dangle from both sides of her chin. Did I do that? I grope for an apology. Her pinpoint pupils are a tiny dot in a field of cobalt – the cold winter sun through an old bottle. Her porcelain skin gleams against the black business suit, jacket half way on, her arms are suspended mid frame, helpless. Helpless. I should ease away from her respectfully.
Astaire and Rogers wait for the music to start, but the ensuing silence is more like the Novocain on an abscessed tooth. We remain, frozen. Her hand gathers my pink dress shirt into a tight fist. Her hip presses slightly forward into the hasty embrace.
I release her. “I’m really am sor—”
“You should watch where you’re going.” Her words are a whisper. She gently pats my heart. Her pupils widen, suddenly black as a mourner’s dress. Her nicked, thick wedding band reflects the endless row of fluorescent tubes above.
“God, I am really sorry, Ms, um . . .” I lift my brow.
She sniffs hard, pulls back, finishes putting on her coat and wipes both cheeks. “Huddleston. I—me too. I didn’t mean it—I shouldn’t have called you—a—I mean, that.” She smiles then continues in the opposite direction.
I savor the last hints of her scent and my sudden, rare, ripe guilt. I look back and watch her walk away. She doesn’t look back. Her pace looks angry, faster than my pace when I ran into her.
I turn my popcorn hard on, something I regret almost as much as asking her name, to twelve O’clock. “Well I am. A bastard, that is, Ms Huddleston.” I say too quiet for anyone to hear. “Usually I am.” I am late for my meeting, but walk slowly, and consider.