I walked home from work. A man in a grey suit approached me.
‘It may be better to find another route,’ he said. ‘There’s a roadblock ahead. Besides, the other streets have nicer views.’
I followed his advice and strolled back to the side street I’d passed just moments ago.
A woman came up to me and pointed at a nurse sitting on a bench. ‘Better pay attention to her,’ she said. ‘One day, you might need that information.’
I gave her a questioning look. She shrugged and headed in the direction I’d come from.
‘There’s a roa–’
‘No need to repeat that,’ the nurse said.
‘Don’t stop there,’ she said. ‘Take a few steps to your right, and you’ll be fine.’
I got dizzy.
‘Please, tell me where you work,’ she continued.
‘Why do you want to know?’
‘I just do,’ she answered. ‘How old are you?’
‘Twenty-three,’ I said. ‘Anything else?’
‘Actually, yes. How would you describe yourself?’
‘Dunno, a regular guy.’
‘That’s not enough, I want to know more.’
‘I just do.’
I took a seat next to her.
‘Better not stay here too long,’ she said.
‘Why the hell not?’
‘It’s distracting you from your walk,’ she said dryly. ‘Look at me, remember me, and go home.’
She put a hand on my arm as I rose. ‘One more thing. Take in everything you see.’
To my surprise, I said, ‘I will.’
I shook my head and wondered what would happen next.
I passed trees that had stood in patience for centuries, their shriveled roots searching for ways to claim space. Light filtered through the gaps between their leaves and dappled the ground.
‘You’re getting there,’ someone behind me said.
Not bothering to turn I replied, ‘Getting where?’
‘Details, details.’ The man passed me and hurried on. His shoes made the clicking sound of a tap dancer’s. His long grey hair tried to keep up with him as he moved.
Finally, my front door came into sight.
For the first time, I noticed its color and condition. The paint was cracked and faded. A tiny hole showed in its window, and the doorbell hung askew.
‘Mother, I’m home.’
‘How many times do I have to tell you not to call me that,’ she said. ‘I’m your mom.’
‘I met a nurse, in a pastel blue uniform, today. She was kind of chubby, in an attractive way. Her lips were painted dark purple. Cornrows accentuated her beautiful round face, and she smiled like she was in love. She just started talking to me as I passed her on the–’
‘You can stop there,’ my mother said. ‘First of all, nurses don’t wear lipstick. And second, telling me you saw a nurse would have been quite enough.’
‘Thanks, Mom. I’ve had enough literary critique for one day.’