Although the bench at the bus stop was metal and quite cold, Liz barely reacted to it when she sat down. Her mind was full of the insanity that had been her work day. Even more maddening, today was merely a drop in the bucket of endless days. Just more of the same, over and over, until she felt so numb that even a frozen butt could not faze her.
With a small sigh for the sadness of it all, Liz leaned back against the frigid bench and snuggled as far into her coat as she could manage. The sun, an orange glow back-lighting the buildings across the street, had all but set. It would only get colder before her bus came.
God, what was she doing with her life? She wondered, staring at the remnants of the sunset and seeing nothing but the approaching night. She’d thought this job would be a good match. Then the politics set in, as it always did, dumping Liz back into the high-stress trap that she’d been hoping to escape in the first place. Another dead-end that barely paid her rent.
It’s just a phase of life, she thought. This is just what you have to go through in order to move on to the next level, live like an adult. Pay your dues, and all that. But, Liz didn’t know if she really believed that was true anymore. She had the most horrible feeling that this was life as an adult. Nothing but this slog, over and over, every day until she died.
She watched her breath drift heavenward in the gathering shadows. It was hard to remember the dreams of high school, even college. As if her life had always been this. She actively tried to imagine a world where things were different. Nothing came readily to mind.
“Somewhere far from here,” she murmured.
Maybe Paris? Cliche, of course. Although, if people were always trying to get to Paris it must be nice. Or perhaps this place didn’t have a name, just some faraway land with narrow streets that let out on hidden fountains and tiny sidewalk cafes.
That’s where she’d be sitting: in a cozy little cafe chair with a warm, spicy drink in her hand. She’d watch the last few people walk by as the sun set behind the charming old-world buildings. Maybe she’d be waiting for someone; some friends, a lover. She’d wait and watch as the darkness crept in softly and the lights came on all around.
Liz could hear a light rain beginning to fall on that faraway street. She could see the colored lights blurred and dancing in little puddles between cobbles. She saw it so vividly, as if another life, another world were within her reach.
Liz leaned forward, stretched out her hand.
The squeal of brakes, and the loud ‘whoosh’ of air that accompanied them startled her so much, she nearly fell off the bench.
That’s right, she thought as she recomposed herself, the bench at the bus stop. Liz glanced around and saw only the darkened park across the street, neon marquees kicking on around it, and people filing off the bus.
That other world was gone. People were staring at her from the bus windows.
Liz ducked her head. How embarrassing! Being caught up in a daydream like that… Maybe she ought to take the next bus instead. As she thought about it, she turned herself away from the inquisitive strangers filing past and self consciously began to fuss with her hair.
Her fingers froze when she touched it. There were water droplets where none should be. A quick glance showed them glistening on her coat as well, and on the bench next to where she sat. Heedless of those who stared, Liz jumped up to look at her seat. In a perfect circle, the ground was wet from a rain that had only fallen in her imagination.
Liz stared at it for a moment. Then she squared her shoulders and turned, walking away from the bus stop, across the street. The shadows of the park grew ever deeper as she walked among them, listening for the sound of rain.
I actually wrote this story a couple of years ago, and I’ve been meaning to put it up since then. It was inspired by a picture I saw of lights reflected in a rainy street, a little out of focus. It had such a great neither-here-nor-there sort of quality. ^-^