There was just the hint of a warm breeze in the late afternoon. But who could know that? Everyone had the windows of their vehicles up to block out the noise of the traffic and fumes. And who could notice the trees gently waving to them when they were concentrating on keeping a safe distance from the car in front of them. The traffic was stop and go; all eyes were straight ahead and glazed over.
Sherry parked her shopping cart beside her car and dug in her purse for her keys. She noticed the traffic building up on the highway beside the mall and realized how late it was. She pulled half the contents out of her bag but could not find her keys. A prickle of panic was setting in when she remembered her daughter was sucking on them. She had given them to her when she started to fuss in the check out line.
“Sweetie, I’m gonna have to take those back now.”
The baby started to cry when she gently pulled them from her.
“It’s ok, I’ll give you something better” she tried to say soothingly but it came out sounding a little short tempered.
She was so tired. She couldn’t remember the last time she had a full nights sleep. Her nerves were frayed.
The baby cried on while she rooted through the plastic grocery bags for something brightly coloured but soft enough for her daughter to teethe on. The only thing she could see that might work was a package of red and gold paper napkins.
“Look! Look what mommy has for you!” She waved the package playfully.
Her daughters little hands reached forward and as quickly as it began, the crying stopped. She gave her mother a big gummy grin. In that moment Sherry was overwhelmed by how much love she felt for daughter; her child. They were alone in the world, they only had each other but suddenly she knew they were going to be just fine. Her weariness fell away and now all she felt was love. She was so grateful for this beautiful child.
The empty plastic grocery bag she had taken the napkins out of slipped from her hand then and lifted into the air. It floated, suspended above them, swirled for a moment and then disappeared high over the trees that lined the parking lot. The sight of it made them both giggle.
Roger waited at the light. He was going over the conversation in his mind. The one he wished he’d had the guts to have. The one that went unsaid because he was afraid he’d lose his job if he spoke up. How could he blame me for the screw up? I was the one that caught the mistake and brought it to everyone’s attention, and yet somehow it’s my fault? What the hell is that? I work hard for this company but no one ever mentions that do they? I put in more hours and have more experience than most of management combined! I’d like to see how they’d get along without me! If I didn’t show up tomorrow all hell would break loose. They wouldn’t know what hit them. I should just quit and see how they crumble without me.
He sighed deeply. Oh sure. Quit? I can barely make the payments now, especially since Carol was laid off. I have to put our kids through college and my savings are shrinking instead of growing. Can things get any worse? His chest felt tight and he found it hard to get any air past his already loosened collar and tie.
A wispy whiteness caught his attention then. Something was floating above and just ahead of his SUV. As he watched the plastic bag dance in the breeze he felt a peaceful calm wash over him. He relaxed and smiled. He thought about his family and how much he loved them. He thought of all the laughter they shared together. He felt grateful for how they supported and cared for one another and suddenly all that mattered was getting home to see them again. Before the light changed green for him he caught the eye of a woman in a car adjacent to him. The white plastic bag rolled and dipped and then dashed high above them. It was beautiful. He saw her look up and watched her face soften and a smile begin to form just before he rolled away.
Diane was relieved to be able to stop at the light, to just sit there without having to move or think. Today was the first day without any sedatives in her system and so she was allowed to drive. One of her daughters had stayed after the service to watch over her, to make sure she was able to cope. Cope. Rhymes with dope. And hope. She had felt doped from all the drugs the doctor prescribed to help her sleep, but hope? Well hope was more elusive to her. She felt relieved though to be out of the house and on her own, away from the sickly scent of too many bouquets of flowers, away from the concern and sorrow in everyone’s eyes. And relief felt better than anything else she’d felt since he died. The day he died the world had turned heavy and grey and ugly.
Relief is a step beyond sorrow, she thought. Could the heaviness lift a little, could the world brighten one day? She glanced to her right then and saw…him. She gasped. She could actually see him. It was him…only a younger version of him. He was sitting in an SUV and he was looking right at her. She couldn’t breathe. This is impossible, she thought. Of course it can’t really be him. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. His features started to focus then and slowly she realized that she was mistaken. Of course, she chastised herself; it could not have been him. He’s gone. He’s gone forever!
Still, she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. He was looking up at something. What was he looking at? She followed his gaze. Then she saw it too. It was only an empty plastic bag floating above the intersection but there was something very playful about it. It was twirling, and then collapsing down on itself as if the life had been taken out of it. Just when she thought it would disappear under the wheels of a vehicle and be lost forever, suddenly it was flying again. It flew with exuberance, with joy! It was hope. It was her hope. I’m going to be ok, she thought. I’m going to find joy again one day. I will float and dance and feel love again. One day.