Really going out on a limb here... to post one of my first "completed" short stories- as in, one I haven't consistently add...

Really going out on a limb here... to post one of my first "completed" short stories- as in, one I haven't consistently added to and cut and pieced together again. Interestingly enough, I set this scene on my way home from Colorado last March- a couple together in the airport, just beginning to talk, and then their irresistible connection near the end of the flight just tugged at my heartstrings. I was intrigued, and fell in love with the two of them together. And so I wrote. 

She sat in the aisle seat, her worn green plaid shirt pulled over her wrists, her legs in patterned leggings, criss-cross-applesauced. He wore thick socks underneath worn boots with dangling shoestrings, and his fur flap hat was, “just because,” even though it was plenty warm in the bus. They were the only two besides the bus driver, grumpy and cross, in the midst of this Indian summer turned sour. Snow fell softly outside the window as they bumped through the cracked pieces of road and dirt in the farm country.  Buses in that part of the countryside weren't in the habit of making unnecessary stops, since there was no place to rest anyway; so the two munched quietly away at a burlap bag of freshly-grown baby carrots, tasting like farmhouse earth, for breakfast. He hadn’t brought any food; it seemed like the most natural thing in the world for her to offer him something.  He read the newspaper, and his green-eyed gaze flickered quietly towards her. She glanced outside, and back down at her sketchpad, as though unaware of his presence.  Several hours passed before either of them felt comfortable enough to say hello.
“My name’s Emily.” 
“Joe. Well, Joseph. But just Joe.”
Thus, introductions were made.
He smiled shyly at her through his beard; her fingers just touched the bus ticket tucked deep into her pocket as he cleared his throat. She closed her sketchbook and looked him in the eye across the aisle. “Where are you headed?” 
“I’m off,” he paused to smile that smile again, “to pursue my dream.” 

A dream. It had taken so long for her to think about those. “Dreams come slow and go much too quickly to last.” “Maybe,” he acknowledged, and stopped. She was intrigued now, but he refused to continue until she let encouragement slip. “Dream?”
They had every conversation in the world; about what was right and what had all gone bad. But had she yet mentioned to him that this was all she had? She was off pursuing her own dream, right? Betwixt the constant sandwiches and tea served at the home-run restaurant back in the country, she had had enough of the environment. Unfortunately, enough of the environment did not constitute enough money in her pocket or a place to stay. Clothes on her back were the ones she owned. All she had was the sketchbook, and only six or seven pages left in that.

While she was distracted, Joe had helped himself to her dreams in sketched out form. She hadn’t realized he was flipping through them until he laid the pages down. 
“They’re beautiful.” 
“Don’t just say that. Please.” 
“No, honestly. Why would you deliver them to someone who you only think would appreciate them more?”
“The home folks don’t understand my obsession.”
“I wouldn’t understand why.”  
“All I want to do is tell stories. Through my pen. Through art. Whether that’s writing out a love story or helping a deaf person see a baby’s first cry.”
“Y’know what’s strange? I’m running back to that place- the place with the home folks. The honesty and authenticity of the people there is intrinsic. I have never felt so comfortable, so well-known in my life, by people who were, only days ago, strangers to me- see, you have that. I feel that with you.  I think that's the most startling and settling sensation. I feel known, I feel understood, I feel comfortable as I am… I feel loved. Pretense flies out the door. People are people and they- well, they are wonderful people. They love. They laugh. They eat their food with leftover chopsticks in old, rained-on rooms lit by twinkling lights or candles, based on occasion and feelings only. They run to wherever they need to go. They get stuck in the rain, and dance in it instead of complaining in their cars like the city people do. They buy or grow things like rice and beans for dinner and lunch, and no one bats a single eyelash when you say something shocking. They weep in front of each other. They're at home with their selves, each other. And, well, there's such a sacredness, I guess- I don’t know if I’m using the right words-  to this fellowship. This, Emily. This is real life, real people, face to face relationships, this growing and doing life together. A jumble- but a beautiful one! A song. We may not know where we're going or how we're arriving, but we're together, and isn't that better? Isn't that the best we could ever wish for?”

She had never expected to hear that much, that wonderful, from him. He had grown passionately mad about what she was leaving behind her. Why was she leaving it behind her?
And he used “we.” Where did that word come from? For the longest time in her life, all she had to hear or speak of had been, quite simply, “I.” And since she had heard it for so long, she had begun to think solely in first person instead of second.

It was the real he spoke of. She felt a part of that poetry, the softly-strummed song under starlit skies. She understood just how much of a thread in the actual tapestry of life she was. Her sketchbook explained that. His words explained that even better.
Softly, she asked, “What did you say your dream was?”
“I just want to write.”
“Why would you come someplace so slow?”
“Are you coming or going now?” he asked, softly.
“I suppose I’m coming home more and more by the minute.”

“I’m going to a place so slow because of the reasons I just explained to you. Besides… this last winter, I was possessed with this terrible fear that any iota of passion or talent I had towards making words was only an illusion of my own. To be more accurate, that I’d actually pulled off some sort of feat in fooling myself through the seasons of my journey. The mental state I was in reflected the...” his voice trailed off as his eyes rolled back as if trying to mentally steel himself to find the word. It came like thunder. “Frostiness.

She jumped. He apologized. It was all so simple and yet, heartfelt; and he continued.

“The frostiness of my physical home.”
“You have a gift of words.”
“So they tell me.”

She didn’t say anything else, so he continued.
“‘Where are you from?’ a lady asked me once. ‘Texas,’ I responded, in my obvious accent. It was the truth, but the words rolled off my tongue, and felt strange. Because, where I’m from, I don’t know. Home? I know of not one place holding that title-- only people.”

And so, somewhere between lunch and the third cup of pre-prepared thermos coffee, the words came naturally.  But they were not what people think of when they say the words to their friend or husband or wife or significant other. There was a feeling of kinship, which is where the beauty lasts. Before either one of them realized what they meant, somewhere between mile marker two-hundred and twelve, and the second-to-last song on the bus radio station, the word "love" slipped out between "I" and "you.” 


Conversations, 2014, Copyright of Sierra Brewer

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