Prelude to a Burst
Scott Ryan

Wendy sat there with only a yellow legal pad in her hand. She had been rocking it back and forth so much that the cardboard backing had given to her will and had become flexible. The people sitting on either side of her couldn’t read what was on the page … if anything was on the page. Wendy’s mask was too tight. Her mother had sewn it and sent it through the mail to her in early March. Before that, Wendy hadn’t heard of COVID or the impending life change that the country was experiencing. It wasn’t that she didn’t know that other things were going on, they just weren’t as important as what was on her plate. She looked around the room now and all she could see were eyes. They all had so much more life in them than she felt hers had.

 

“It was amazing how quickly we can adapt. Even when we don’t want to,” Wendy thought as she let her pinky trace the tip of her ear to give it just a bit of relief. The ear, just like her feelings, was granted no such relief. What was the point? There was so much more time ahead where more pressure would be stretched across that ridge. There was no such thing as relief. There was change, constant change, but that was just new drama to replace the old. As her mind went to the things she’d like to say first in the next few moments, she was overwhelmed with pure anger. She let out the smallest huff of rage. The person sitting next to her thought it was a cough and got up and moved. This made Wendy laugh and the person on the other side, a tall Asian man who had a homemade mask that said, “Daddy’s mouth” on it, said aloud, “I forgot that in my car, dang it.” He got up and moved as well. Wendy didn’t even look to see if he actually went to his car or if it was just another lie told for no good reason.

 

She was glad for the elbow room. Maybe she would store her bitterness to the right and her anger to the left. She looked up to see a married couple looking at the two new empty seats that she was separating. Their eyes helpless. These masks were a blessing. Had she seen their pitiful smile and had been forced to dutifully return it, it might have made curse words form on her lips before she could stop herself. She slid over and took Daddy’s mouth’s seat. The couple sat down and held hands.

 

Wendy held her own hands and gripped them too tight. Her knuckles were starting to give. She closed her eyes and felt the anger in her shoulders, the tip of ear and her teeth. As she felt her fingers compressing each other like a vice, she wondered what had become of her notepad. Her eyes opened quickly to see it lodged between the metal feet of the chairs the married couple now occupied. It was spherical like a fruit roll up. She could ask for it, take it quickly when she left for the next room, or just leave it all behind. She only had a moment to decide as her turn was now.

 

She left it all behind.

Scott Ryan is a writer living in Florida.

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