She was present, her mind alert as she sat on the worn bench outside that old bakery everyone ignored. It was one of those typical afternoons, the ones that seem to draw on for ages. She scanned the wavering line of people as they disappeared into the little shops lining the street with bored eyes, searching for something she hadn't yet found.
An hour snuck past. She glanced at the giant city clock, but it was different than those movies. She couldn't hear the ticking, which reminded her that the fate of the afternoon didn't rest in the hands of a playwright, but of the guy who hadn't yet made his appearance.
A bus rattled by, the clock hands strained under the evening light. Several minutes died, almost as good as wasted. All the occasions she'd wished for more time she regretted now, for wishing never goes as expected, and almost never ends the way you want it, as if to punish you for being discontent in the first place. She felt as if she were sitting in an hourglass, and the sand was forever pouring. She watched as unfamiliar faces ran by with their eyes set on their missions and not their surroundings. Usually, she was one of them, but today she was sitting on a bench alone, waiting for a man who tested her loyalty and made her wait.
A cough from an old woman caused her to glance up. It occurred to her she was beautiful. She had that old sunshiny light that comes from the freedom of enjoying life. She didn't hide her wrinkles, which revealed years of smiling. She stood to offer the old woman her seat, and as she rose his eyes caught the eyes of the guy she'd been waiting for, concealed across the street in a dry little cafe, watching her.
He flashed an expression of startlement before casually submerging it beneath his usual cold demeanor. He looked back down at his computer screen, and she could hear him think, “Hold on, Honey, just let me finish the page.”
Her heart didn't thump in excitement like it should have. Instead, glancing back at the old woman now smiling at her, she realized she'd been wrong. Looking at this beautiful guy in the window, all she saw was bleached dry hair burnt to a crisp with false honest efforts, white teeth probably worth more trouble than satisfaction, and an unnatural toned body. He wouldn't have smile wrinkles when he was older. Looking at this guy, it hit her she had the strength to date this guy, but even more weakness. Anyone could catch a fancy for eye candy, but the true strength came in uncovering the beauty of someone who hides it more carefully. True beauty comes from the inside. Staring at him now, he was empty. There was no beauty within him.
A clock chimed far off, and she saw him in a different light. He looked weary and shriveled, as if those efforts to starve his taste buds from their delights had taken their toll. His body couldn't lie any longer. For an instant she had the unguarded thought Sam had been right,but she snapped him from her thoughts before the insecurities had time to seep in. She looked back at the woman, glowing from the inside. There was a calm vibe wafting from her, an inner peace that was soothing to soak up.
He was now storing his computer into the case, and she recalled the so common expression of distaste upon his face as he would sit in grey rooms with overly polished floors reflecting the dim white light. He would spend hours forcing himself onward, enduring the torture, in hopes of the future. His weary expression would flicker with excitement as he talked about his dreams, but she saw they were fading. She could see the ever-deepening concentration and frown lines becoming further etched into the character of his face. She realized she had loved a man who would never be happy. Working so hard for something just beyond the corner, he could never appriciate the path he was on.He would keep walking until his old age would restirct his ability, and he would be forced to settle for less than the dream he always fought for. He had trained his mind to endure torture, and had forgotten how to see the light.
She realized with a start she herself had been dying as well. She had walked the same path all her life. She pittied those who gave up on their struggle, believing they would never find happiness, but the truth was they learned how to create it as they went.She was running after something that didn’t come with distance.
Her free arms and dancing feet didn’t thrive with life because there wasn’t time for silly dancing. If she died now, having always pushed her happiness to later, she might never live to get it. She had a list of dreams she needed to experience or she would whither away unsatisfied. Instead, she was going to live, in the pretty little news anchor outfits, telling petty tales of suffering all because that would give her the money she required to live the accepted “perfect” consumerist life with the accepted “perfect” boyfriend who would teach her children self disipline.
She glanced at the old women again. How had she managed? She was full of young energy. She was present in the present. She lived her happiness, because she created it. How did she ever learn to be content?
She looked to the old woman expecting her to say something. The woman sitting on the bench next to you during a crisis always has some information, but the woman just smiled. She waited for her to say something like, "Go on, sweetie, do what you need to do," and then she'd make her choice, but the woman was closing her eyes. She looked up one last time at the man, and her love for him snapped. She had treated him the way she treated everything: endure it, it will get better. She looked at him now. She starred beyond his looks into his personality, his tensions, his angers, his passions.She took a deep breath, and admitted to herself she didn’t love this man anymore. She could force on the dillusional thought she was just being picky, but she realized she was allowed to be. She didn’t have to settle for a dream she no longer wanted.
She turned to pick up her bag from next to the woman, and a reflection of herself caught her eye, and she grew infuriated. A perfected image of her stared back, clean eyebrows and a false skin tone choked with powers. She couldn’t love someone who changed her to a state she hated. She yanked the hair tie from her perfect auburn hair and ripped their love notes into pieces. Then because somebody had to do it, screamed as loud as she could, "I only live once!" and ran down the street happier than she had been in ages, leaving a trail of tiny paper pieces and that version of herself behind.
She didn't turn back. She wasn’t about to waste another minute in a lifestyle that wasted all her passion. It was pretty, but it wasn’t beautiful.