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October 03, 2022

With No Announcement

By Chas Wallace

He sat in the coffee shop staring out the window at the snow-covered hills to the south of him. A tune from the seventies played on the speakers. It made him smile to think the kids today would call it an, "oldies" tune. To him it was music he grew up with. He took a sip of his mocha and stared at nothing. He thought nothing. To a part of him, this was interesting, because he was a thinker. Thinking to him was as natural as breathing, something he had never tired of. Until the day no thoughts would come. This wasn't a bad thing, though. It wasn't a sign of his mind shutting down, or giving up or anything. No, it was what came after, what remained after he had been down all the roads in his mind. Many of them were dark places, and he was now comfortable with that. The darkness was part of who he was, no more, no less.

The door opened and a cold breeze blew in, chilling him just a bit. A tall dark-haired woman in a dirt colored duster walked in. She looked like she had been walking all day and that was no big deal to her. He studied her and saw confidence in her step. She moved more like a man, he thought, with strength and determination. There was not too much of the grace and feminine in her step. That made him smile, and just at that moment her gaze fell on him and she returned his smile. This too was interesting, because it was not a casual smile shared between strangers, there was more familiarity in it. While he nodded his head at her he felt confusion. Was she flirting with him? He was quite sure he didn't know her, or did he? The moment was broken as she turned and placed her order at the counter. His gaze turned back to the snow-covered foothills. Part of him wanted nothing more than to get up, walk out the door and up into those hills and see what was there. This is boredom speaking to you, he thought to himself, either that or maybe, just maybe, this was what lay beyond the, "no thought" phase he had found himself in for several years now. Ambition had left, along with most of his valued possessions. He had realized that most of what he had thought important, wasn't. Life had simplified for him, and at last he was comfortable with the man in the mirror.

His mind was going down this new road and was completely lost in the possibilities, and it therefore completely took him by surprise when he felt the air rush and saw the movement of her body as she sat down in the seat in the booth across from him. A faint scent of jasmine was in the air. They stared at each other and in that brief moment of silence, looked into each other's heart, or as far as was allowed. An indecipherable smile started to play across her lips, while he studied her unemotionally. Her sitting did nothing to surprise him, but then not much did anymore. He had decided she was not only non-threatening, but not at all unattractive. This was new and anything new was good. He spoke a single word, "Hello."

She leaned back, continuing to study him. Her smile broadened a bit. Perhaps she likes what she's seeing, he thought to himself. It was the way he thought, the way he talked to himself, with an equal mix of irony and honesty. She spoke with an accent that he couldn't place, though it was very pleasant. "I saw you watching the hills as I walked in. They call to you, don't they?"

He smiled for the first time, "Yes they do," he started, "and I was just thinking that perhaps this is what follows after." He let the sentence hang because he wanted to see what she would do. A thinker, a fellow traveler would have no trouble picking up the thread he had laid down. He fell silent, and listened and watched, but only for a moment because she leaned forward, the smile fading into a look of seriousness.

"What follows after all the roads have been explored and their destinations discovered, what follows after everything that doesn't belong has been removed."

They both fell silent. What she had spoken had moved him, not emotionally so much as something below that. It had touched his very humanity, it was hard to put into words really. None of the questions that would plague you concerned him. He didn't care who she was, or where she came from, or even how she seemed to be able reach right down into his very center. All he knew was that someone had walked in that understood, and in all his fifty-some years, that had never happened. Some had come close, but with her simple reply to his sentence, she had gotten past all the rest.

He took a drink of his mocha and set the paper cup down, his eyes never leaving hers. He slowly nodded his head in response. "Yes," he replied, "I've been waiting patiently."

"The time for waiting is over," she whispered softly, almost too low for him to hear.

Part of him wanted to ask her if she was trying to pick him up, but there was something about her, something foreign that suggested humor would not be appropriate. Besides that, he was not one for much humor. What he said, though, surprised even him. "I'm ready for a walkabout." The word was not quite appropriate but it conveyed the meaning he wished.

Her response frightened him, because for all his talk he really was one who had confined himself to the realm of thought. Action was taken only after a great deal of the former, and only then with great caution.

"I know. That's why I'm here." Then, with no announcement, she reached the short distance across the table and took his hand in hers and began to stand speaking as she did, "Come, we don't have much time."

Article © Chas Wallace. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-03-28
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