I noticed her belly first. She was wearing a form-fitting, emerald green sweater that stretched over her rounded belly effortlessly. By my guess she was about six months along. She had on an adorable pair of ripped skinny jeans and a pair of black flats with a gold toe. Her only other accessory was a burgundy cross-body bag with a playful tassel hanging from the side. Her wavy blonde hair kept falling into her eyes but she didn’t bother to brush it away. Instead, she just looked straight ahead, seemingly in her own quiet world on a very crowded metro train car. We looked close enough in age; she was probably a little younger than I, maybe twenty-seven or twenty-eight.
The train jolted violently and everyone braced themselves against the pulling force of gravity. She grabbed ahold of the bar I was holding onto, our eyes meeting briefly and I smiled at her. She quickly looked away. An older gentleman sitting in one of the seats designated for the disabled, elderly, and pregnant asked the girl if she would like his seat as he stood and gestured her towards it. She replied with a simple, “No thanks,” and he sat back down. She had this sadness about her; it was in her eyes when they looked into mine.
The screaming of metal on metal as the train car bounced back and forth as it made its way through the tunnel pulled my attention away from the pregnant girl. I looked out the window only to be met with darkness, the dim lights inside the train car not doing much to light the way. I looked around and everyone had the same look of routine on their faces. We were all doing the same thing for the most part, just making our way to another day of work. I sighed, wondering if this was really it for the next forty years. The train slowed to a crawl before stopping completely. We were still inside the dark tunnel and I couldn’t help but look at the pregnant girl’s reflection in the window. There she was, still staring straight ahead into the darkness, looking lost. A voice came over the intercom letting us know we were single tracking, the Red Line was always a complete mess.
The pregnant girl coughed and brought her hand up to cover her mouth. As she did so, the sleeve of her sweater lifted and that’s when I saw them. The scars were raised ever so slightly, and white. These were old scars, I could tell by the coloring and because I shared similar ones. Mine were hidden of course. I never could bring myself to cut in places others would see. I stared at her wrist and I felt her pain, I felt her sadness, her confusion, her anxiety. I felt it all. Her cuts had been deep and there were many. She noticed me staring and quickly adjusted her sleeve, shooting me a “mind your own business” kind of glare. I looked away.
I wondered about her and what her life was like. I wondered about her past and what made her cut to take away the mental anguish in exchange for physical pain. But mostly, I wondered about her now. Like her, I stopped many years ago. My scars have stayed with me and they are a constant reminder of that time, but I moved on nonetheless. I wondered was she single? Married? Did she have anyone at home or was she alone? I wondered if she wanted the child she was carrying. I wondered if the child would bring her happiness. She appeared so put together on the outside, so “normal.” But even I know how easy it is to pretend to be something you are not. She didn’t know it but we shared something; something neither of us could talk about.
I got off at the next stop and made my way to work. I noticed more that morning on my walk to my building. The sky was a bit grayer, the grass seemed a bit duller. I watched as a homeless woman held out her hand asking for spare change as the other hand grabbed the cigarette hanging from her toothless mouth. A dog and his owner were playing fetch on the courthouse lawn. Groups of middle schoolers were making their way to the National Mall with their chaperones, loud and playful; not a care in the world. That’s how it goes though, right? The world continues to go on around you regardless of what you have going on inside.
The day passed me in a blur, the pregnant girl from that morning never really leaving me. I looked at the clock and 3:30 glared back at me. I decided I would leave work early, maybe grab an afternoon latte at the local coffee shop. As I walked through the doors of the café, the warm aromas of smoky and nutty coffee filled my nostrils. I took a deep breath in and let the sounds and smells of the café envelope me in their warmth. I got in line and studied the chalkboard with the handwritten menu items, settling on a Café Mocha. The glass case filled with pastries, croissants, and several choices of quiche beckoned me. I looked around the café to see if there were any available seats and there she was. I had to let my eyes adjust and refocus to be sure but it was definitely her, sitting in a corner booth with her chin resting in her hand. Her emerald green sweater as eye catching as it was that morning. I saw her brush away something under her eye, she looked as if she was crying. There was an empty plate sitting in front of her and nothing else.
“Excuse me, Ms.? Are you ready to order?” I turned around with a start, not realizing it was my turn to order. I apologized and ordered my Café Mocha, hesitated for a moment, and then decided to order a Hot Chocolate as well. I paid for my drinks and made my way to an empty table. What was I doing? I just bought two drinks and now I was going to take them and sit alone? I took a sip of my Mocha and just went for it. I walked over to the booth where the pregnant girl was sitting. “Hi there, would it be alright if I shared the booth with you?” I asked. She looked up and slight recognition gleamed in her eyes. She stared for a moment and then slowly said, “Sure, I don’t see why not.”
I sat down in front of her and pushed the Hot Chocolate in her direction. “My name is Stacey, what’s yours?”
Flash Fiction Story By: Rebecca L. Taylor