FOUR MINUTES • by Sarah Wagner

Two raindrops race down the glass. I watch, silently calling their progress like it’s the Preakness. The man across from me waxes faux-poetic about my shape, my skin, my eyes.

I don’t have words, they’re swallowed by his voice before they leave my lips. His words melt together until they are one long babble from his brook-mouth. I turn to get a better look at him. He’s like a trout, his mouth opens and closes over and over around his constant noise.  He’s average, any man, every man.

I glance toward the lady with the clipboard begging her to call time but I’m pretty sure she hates me or maybe time hates me and is drawing every second into eternity. This is going to be the second longest four minutes of my life.

This guy is happy to sit there blowing up his ego, stacking the pieces of his life into a monument he hopes will impress me. He’s looking at me, but he doesn’t see me. He sees a body he likes well enough because I’m warm and breathing. I try to play connect the dots with his freckles but they’re too far apart.

Four minutes is a long time. Long enough for me to note that, with him, my home would never be silent. I’d never have a chance to drown in thought, for my brain to come up with all the ways I’ve screwed up.

“Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.” Shit. I said that out loud.

“What?” He stops talking and stares at me like I’m the impolite one.

I stare back, a bit like a deer frozen in the headlights of an oncoming car hoping that if I say nothing, if I don’t move anything he’ll start talking again and forget I’m real. It isn’t working. “I was just thinking it wouldn’t be so bad to never have to worry about talking again.”

His cheeks flush and he looks down at his hands. “I talk too much when I’m nervous.”

“I’m the opposite.” I shrug and his smile is real. It’s a nice smile. Out of the corner of my eye I see the lady with the clipboard check her watch. Our four minutes must almost be up. What the hell? I try not to say something stupid. “I like action movies.”

“I prefer foreign films.” He tries one of his own. “I like coffee.”

“I’m more of a tea kind of girl. But I like the smell of coffee.” I lean towards him, but I don’t smell coffee, just a nice cologne. Mom and the degree in psychology bestowed upon her by the great university of daytime talk shows would probably like him. “My mom’s crazy.”

“Finally, something we have in common!”

I laugh. I wonder if he still likes what he sees.

“Do you like Chinese?” He finally asks me a question. At least it’s an easy one.

“I do.” I nod. “Food is my favorite thing.”

His smile changes from nice to amazing. “I’m a chef. My favorite thing to do is feed people.”

The bell rings and he smiles. Maybe my mom was right about this speed dating. I check a box on my scorecard. He looks at me while we half listen to the woman addressing the room. “I know a great Korean place about a block from here, if you’re hungry.”

I look at his hand, but I don’t know what any of the lines mean. “I’m always hungry.”

Sarah Wagner is a fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, and horror author and poet in West Virginia. Myth, magic, and mayhem are mainstays in her stories.

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