Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Three Minutes

The flow of cars has been pulsing to the colours of the traffic lights; hypnotising me as I watch and sip my coffee and daydream. The lights turn to red again, and the cars slow, then stop. They'll need to wait exactly three minutes; I've timed it. The man in the first car turns towards me, and I look straight into his eyes. He is alone in the car. There is unflinching anger in his eyes. It breaks the spell of the traffic, and casts a new one over me.

I don't recognise the man, though he obviously remembers me, and has rekindled his grudge in an instant. His face is vaguely familiar. I should know him, but time has been severe to both his face and my memory. He looks to be about my own age: mid fifties. He wears his grey hair long at the back, almost to his shoulders. His sideburns come down well below his ears, and flare forwards onto his cheeks. His black-banded white panama hat, his long-sleeved black shirt and his hair are the style of a man lingering in the seventies.

He continues to stare into my eyes. He has one hand flopped on top of the steering wheel, and his other arm poking out of the open window, resting on the door frame.

It is the car that triggers my memory. In an instant I remember both car and man. Neil was driving the same tan Kingswood when I last saw him, about fifteen years ago. He had had that same look of loathing on his face then too. I don't know why I didn't recognise him sooner.

I feel guilt return with the memories. Neil was devastated when his wife Sarah left him. What made him angry, was that she and I became an item. He and Sarah had been divorced long enough before that happened. Long enough, I thought. He didn't see it that way.

I tried to reason with him at the time, and begged him to accept us, and what we had: for Sarah's sake. Instead, he chose to keep his grudge and lose two friends. I think he was just too proud to let Sarah find happiness with someone else; especially his mate. It was the usual love triangle story, I suppose. Things were said in the heat of the moment, threats were made, and eventually restraining orders kept us apart.

I keep looking into those sad green eyes. I hope that my own eyes show that I'm sorry for the hurt I caused him.

The light turns to green. Neil nods at me, once, then turns forwards, and drives away. I shake my head, and feel goose bumps down my neck. Maybe next time I'll get him a cup of coffee, and we'll talk; maybe.


Angel Zapata said...

I'd stick within the parameters of the restraining order and resist the impulse. He probably has a gun in the glove box. Interesting slice of life.

Bernard S. Jansen said...

Thanks for the comment, Angel. It's funny, but when writing this, I don't remember consciously considering the "risk" to the first-person character of making contact. That said, it must have been in the back of my mind: the hesitant way I end with "maybe".