Monday, August 22, 2011

125/365 -- Playlist Story -- inspired by "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John


A lone figure stood at a city bus stop. Rain pounded down in a comforting haze of white noise. Her dark hair matted against her head; a car drove by and a wake of water leapt up to drench her further. She shivered.

Another figure joined her--a man dressed in a long blue coat and yellow plastic hat. He carried an unopened umbrella. He stood next to her and was silent.

"Hello," she said.

He turned slightly, looked at her quickly with ice blue eyes, then looked forward. "Not many people say 'hi'."

"No, they don't apparently."

The man shifted his feet, stood still listening to the rain, then opened his umbrella and held it over the woman's head.

"Thanks," she said with a tone of surprise. "Although I'm already completely soaked."

The man smiled briefly, then started to withdraw the umbrella. The woman reached out and held the shaft, pulling back. The edges of their fingers touched. They looked at each other directly.

"It's chivalrous. I think," she said.

"It seemed like the right thing to do."

"Maybe so."

The man forced a brief smile, then broke his gaze and looked at their connected hands.

"Could I ask you your name?"

"You could I suppose."

"Would you? Would you tell me your name?"

"How about 'Vanessa'?"

"You don't sound sure."

"You could be a rapist."

"I could be."

"I could be a serial killer."

"You kill people." There was a pause between them, with slight bluffing smiles.

"Haven't yet. Thought about it a lot, but I guess everyone does."

"Not usually."

"And yours?"

"Oh, let's see, how does 'Milton' strike you?"

Vanessa laughed.

"Hey it's your name. My opinion shouldn't enter into it."

"I guess not." They both laughed. Their hands crept closer together along the shaft of the umbrella. Vanessa bit her lower lip. Milton looked out at the aquatized traffic. "How long have you been waiting here?"

"A long time. A very long time."

"The buses always seem to take forever. It's like a purgatory."

"This is different." Vanessa moved closer to Milton. He put his arm around her and felt her shivering. "What are your sins Milton? Tell me your sins."

"My sins. That's an interesting question to ask someone you just met."

"But it cuts right to the center of a person. No veils or masks or psychoanalytic acrobatics. No social kabuki."

"Yeah, I see. But it's not my sins you want to know about. You want to know about my crimes."

"I do? What's the difference?"

"Crimes are what you do to other people and things--mostly to other people. Sin--well sin is what you do to yourself."

"I'm not sure most people agree with you. A lot of people have a very rigid idea of what sin is--what you call crime."

"They don't have to agree with me."

"You're a very intriguing individual, Milton. I wouldn't have guessed it from that hat."

"Gee, thanks." They chuckled. Vanessa leaned her head on Milton's coat and listened to his heartbeat. He kissed the top of her head. "So, uh, you want to know my crimes?"

"No," said Vanessa. "I want to know your sins."

"I don't have many."

"Only a truly good man or a man with a large ego would be able to say that."

"Actually, I think most people have few true sins."

"Vices, then?"

"No, sins. Vices are just tendencies. Sins are the acts that mark you permanently. Still want to know?"

"I'm trying to think of mine now. But, yes, go ahead."

"I've never told anyone this--I told myself, all the time, that no one would ever love me."

"That's it?"

"That's the big one."

"But how would you know that?"


"Wow. Now you're going to say that Jesus loves you, and then I'll slowly inch away as you try to convert me."

Milton laughed.

"No. That's not true."

"That's a relief."

"What about you? What's your one big sin?"

"Well, interestingly enough, given your example, I would have to say that I've always told myself I was too selfish to love. To really love. You know, in a Robert Heinlein sort of way."

"That is interesting."

A bus splashed up to the stop and squeaked to a halt. The doors slid open and a dour bus driver glowered down at the soggy pair.


"Yes Vanessa?"

"This has been quite the moment we've shared."

"It has."

"Come on people, getting on?" interjected the driver.

"Were you waiting for this bus?"

"No," said Vanessa. "I was waiting for you."

Milton stared at her and pressed the back of his hand to her cheek.

"Geez people, hurry up," said the driver, gritting his teeth and leaning over his big black wheel.

Vanessa took Milton's free hand and kissed his knuckles.

The bus driver angrily pulled the lever to the door and stomped on the accelerator, and the bus lurched away.

Vanessa and Milton turned, still holding the umbrella together, and walked off, disappearing into the veil of rain.

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