Then his pace sped up, matching and then surpassing the rate of his former departure. It seemed like an eternity to walk just two blocks. Or maybe it was the heat battering down on him, so unforgiving. The summer heat was still very prevalent, even in early October. It didn’t help that he was wearing a long sleeve button up shirt. When his air-conditioned car first broke down, only the very top button was free. After his car failed to restart and he began his walk, as the high temperature began to work on him, he grew more and more uncomfortable. Every few minutes he would release another button. It wasn’t until the second time that he realized he was undoing them. By now, three buttons were loose, his shirt almost half parted, hoping to catch a breeze that just might come his way. Might was a very strong word in this case.
His thoughts drifted to his sister; what would she do when she realized he was gone? He knew what she would. She would freak out, go through the stuff he had left behind, see if maybe there was a clue, a name or number, and address or something to indicate where he had gone. There was nothing. She would try to find a number for his friends, try contacting one to see if he had spoken to them before leaving, if they knew... something. The trouble was Pierce didn’t have any friends. Just another reason he was leaving.
Next she would jump into her car, curse herself for not having left sooner, for stupidly searching through his things when she should have been out looking for him. She would drive around for hours trying to find him until finally she would call the police. The entire time, the “incident’ would be replaying over and over in her mind.
What if, what if, what if...
He tried telling himself that leaving was for the best. Something inside of him wouldn’t stop declaring the fact that he was fleeing. In his own mind, he spun around, stared Doubt and Uncertainty with an evil glare and they promptly went away. No such luck in the real world.
He sighed to no one in particular, at a loss. It felt so foolish on the one hand, but what else was there to do?
Pierce batted away the gnats that hovered around, attracted by the perspiration that began to cover his entire body. Sweat began to slide down his back; his shirt becoming damp with it and clinging to his skin. With the cuff of his shirt, Pierce wiped at the beads that collected on his brow. He wanted to remove the shirt, wanted to wear only the Haines undershirt beneath. He settled instead with rolling the sleeves to just above his elbows. He felt exposed, even with this small gesture. It took a conscious act of will not look down at his arms, not to snatch the material back down over his wrist.
Instead, he moved to the left side of the street. This way the traffic lane closest to him would carry oncoming traffic; cars passing close would see him from the front as he would see them head on as well. The vehicles passing from behind would be too far away. This was better anyway, less likely to be hit by a car that he could see. Although, if a car hit him it technically wouldn’t be suicide, regardless of his own negligence. Technically, he didn’t know for sure that a car was coming, even if he upped his chances...
The backpack over his shoulder slid down, Pierce caught it in his left hand and swung it around to search inside. It was packed tight; his clothes seemed to threaten to burst the seams. His fingers finally found what it was he was searching for. He removed a dark pair of sun glasses.
“It’s so bright out,” he said aloud to no one. Just as he covered his eyes with the shades, a tear ran free from his eye and down his left cheek. “Ugh, sweat!” he declared aloud though he saw no one around.
He wiped again with his sleeve.
“I hate sweating,” the whoosh of the beginning rush hour sounding as the sole response.
Pierce’s shaking hands fumbled with the zipper of his bag and a pair of boxer shorts tumbled free, falling unfolded to the street. He cursed under his breath and bent to snatch the article off the ground.
He missed not one, but twice. His reach grazing by both times to still remain empty handed. This was definitely not his day!
But it was. For even though he didn’t feel the invisible hands that gripped his hips and moved him to the left, he did feel a burst of air that hit him not a second later. He stumbled and lost his footing. It took a moment for his mind to realize he was sprawled backwards, lying in the grass that served as a shoulder to the street. Pierce’s heart was pounding hard in his chest and for a moment he couldn’t find his breath. The semi-truck that nearly hit him was getting smaller and had almost completely disappeared by the time he could move and was able to climb shakily to his feet. The front of the truck would have been too high for the driver to see his bent form.
Even though he could breath again, his heart was threatening to knock a hole in his chest. Pierce tried to calm himself, thinking serenely. His trembling hand managed to zip the bag closed. He glanced back for a moment and then went on his way, the boxers that had fallen remained in the street, cart wheeling around several times as vehicles paraded over it.
The name “Lisa” was what was scrawled on the tag pinned to her shirt. He ordered, speaking so softly the waitress had to bend to hear him, a sweet tea with lemon and a turkey club with sweet potato fries. Hold the mayo, sub honey mustard. Lisa smiled at him even though it took a third re-utterance for her to hear the entirety of his order. The way her eyes seemed to shift quickly over his features, the way a slight blush rose to her cheeks, the way she paused looking at him before going to place the order... She thought he was cute and he knew it.
Pierce assumed that this meant he wasn’t visibly shaken anymore. He was thankful the calm had finally returned to him, at least as much as it could given his situation. The hostess of this Deny’s had noticed it, greeted him as soon as the doors closed behind his entrance. She sat him immediately even though there were two parties in wait. Genevieve was the name that her tag displayed. Genevieve brought him a tall glass of ice water and smiled at him warmly. She said to him one thing before moving back to her station at the front of the restaurant.
“The trials of life are training for the battle here after; the Lord never gives more than we can truly handle.”
It seemed with that smile and sparkle of eyes, Genevieve could calm the waters of raging rivers. She was a slightly heavy set, middle aged black woman who wore a pair of pastel pink framed glasses. Her hand touched his when she had spoken. Before a response came to mind and passed his lips, he noticed those hands. They seemed impossibly soft for the ware of work and age that marked them.
In quick order, Pierce consumed his meal and a blue berry pie to boot. The iced tea remained untouched all this time but with a few deep gulps the contents lost the tea and retained only the ice. The waitress came by to refill the glass, the same admiring eyes and flirtatious smile. It seemed she started to say something but lost the words or her courage.
With a swallow she finally managed, “You have nice eyes.”
For a moment she waited, maybe for his response or to weigh the effect of her compliment. Seemingly without either, Lisa moved on to her other tables. He felt the color rise to his cheeks and the words that came too late squeaked from his throat. She was beyond the hearing range for his volume. Embarrassed or rude, Pierce couldn’t decide which he was feeling at this moment. Perhaps both.
Overwhelmed suddenly with powerful feeling and the lack of verbal talent to express it, he turned to his bag and pulled from it a nine by five, royal blue notebook with silver curves and spirals artfully decorating the cover. Carefully this time, he searched through the tightly stuffed clothing.
Lisa was moving past when he must have issued a sound announcing something of frustration. Mid step she paused, glanced at him, the table, and what he was doing. Most likely acknowledging the journal, she withdrew from her apron a pen and held it out to him. It took him a second before he noticed, so deep was his intent. Slowly then, the ball-point tip met with his awareness. His eyes followed the plastic instrument to the fingers polished with gold and on to Lisa herself.
He blinked and timidly took the pen, face blank.
He managed an awkward, “Thank you.”
Not lost after all, her smile returned and she winked.
An annoyed patron announced himself and Lisa moved to comply.
During the course of the next fifteen minutes, Lisa returned several times to refill his beverage and each time Pierce apologized profusely for making her works so hard. He was feeling much more at ease. Maybe things weren’t as bad as they seemed. Or so the thought began, but just as quickly it came, he rebuked it. Defiantly however, it hovered just in reach if he so chose to accept it.