Karen Carlson
I call him the Architect. I don't know if he's an Architect, but he works at Barba Preservation and Restoration Architecture, that's what it says on the door he goes in at 8:30, carrying his Starbucks cup. He looks young, maybe he's just a student, an architect in training. It doesn't matter. He's the only real person who ever smiles at me. Some look away, some frown, some stare, but he always smiles.
I have something to give him. A geode. Or a half-geode. Thousands of years old, or maybe millions, I don't remember, but very, very old. On the outside, just a gray rock, nothing special. But they cut it in half and polish it, and inside is a layer of glassy jewel— this one is purple, like an amethyst— and at the core, sparkly crystals that have been in there all those thousands of years. A thank-you gift for the smile-man, who smiles at the dirty old bag lady with the limp.
I feel in my coat pocket to make sure it's still there. It is. I check the pocket again, to make sure there aren't any holes. There aren't.
I think the Architect is like the geode— all grey suit on the outside, but his heart sparkles.
The Time & Temperature Building sign flashes: WMTW - NEWS - 67 - 8:26
And there he is, half a block away. I take the geode out of my pocket, the pocket without any holes.
He sees me, and smiles. I hold out the geode on my good hand. He looks puzzled. "Here," I say. It comes out pretty clearly, "Hee-uh." I practiced saying "It's a geode" but it came out "Iii-shuuu shuoohn". I practiced "thank you", too, but it came out "Aaan-ooo." So I stick with "hee-uh" and smile with the side of my mouth that still smiles.
He shakes his head and says, "I don't have any money to give you today." He starts to walk around me.
I shuffle in front of him, shake my head, nod, smile harder. I hold my hand out even more, the geode on my palm. Just take it. Please. Please. I would give my good arm, my good foot, my breath, my heart, my life, to say one clear sentence at this moment.
He shakes his head again and says "Excuse me now" and goes around me, into Barba Preservation and Restoration Architecture, and I stand there with a stupid rock in my hand.
Karen Carlson lives in Maine, and writes about the lost, the confused, and the lonely. Her stories have appeared in several online journals, including Toasted Cheese and SHINE!