Anne Andersen, a member of the Des Plaines Public Library's writing group, wrote this story from a writing prompt during a meeting. Learn more about the writing group on the library's website.I stumbled forward into the hunched little woman, almost knocking her over and tried to save us from falling by grabbing her shoulders. I came away with a fist full of damp polyester and some silver hair still attached to her head as she tried to slap meaway with her arthritic hands. She finally connected with my sunglasses. They flew across the room and skittered to a sudden stop under the toe of a polished black shoe on the foot of a DMV employee I couldn’t fully see behind the crowd of spectators now staring at me. I hoped he wasn’t here today, of all days.
I finally caught the woman’s hand as she swung at me again then stepped back from her into the protruding belly of the man standing behind me in line. The same man who had stepped on the back of my pink flip-flop and caused me to stumble in the first place. And since he was still standing on my sandal, my foot now stood bare on the dirty gold linoleum floor. He seemed completely oblivious. I turned back to the angry grandma in blue horn rimmed glasses. I pictured the heel of my hand making contact with the bridge of her nose, then my high crane floating spin kick making her fly across the room through the huge window and into the parking lot.
“I’m sorry… really sorry… ma’am, my shoe… I have a wedding…,” was all I could manage under her glare. She made the sign of the cross and turned away with a disgusted look on her pinched face.
Of course the wedding was tomorrow. Of course it was in god-forsaken San Diego. And of course this was the only DMV open Saturdays. The hottest day of the year and I had to drop my wallet into the lake just hours before getting on an airplane. Theday started with such promise when Grace invited me for an early morning bike ride along Lake Michigan, long before my late afternoon flight. A flat tire, a long hot walk back to the car, a lost driver’s license and credit card killed that promise hoursearlier.
And here I stood, still sweating, in line at the DMV. The air-conditioning wasn’t working well. My hair greasy, makeup now somewhere around my chest, dirty shirt clinging to my armpits, I looked homeless. Grandma sniffed the air and moveda little farther on after making sure I wasn’t getting ready to maul her again.
Suddenly a loud crackling pop sounded from the room behind the big desk and everything fell completely still and dark. DMV patrons froze as computer screens blinked out andfans spun down, their small strings a moment ago saluting the breeze now drooping sadly, as sad as I felt. A summer blackout.Typical. Now these old computers would freeze up for days and all my records would mysteriously vanish. I had come, done my work, and chaos reigned in my wake.
“Everyone stay where you are please. Please don’t move. The emergency backup lights will kick on momentarily.” The DMV employee stepped out from behind the counter and even now sounded bored. Maybe they gave courses in that. Edna, have you registered for Boring Voice Refresher Course Level 3 yet? Dead silence. More silence. “Any time. They will kick on any time now.” His voice sounded familiar, bored but familiar.He clicked on a small flashlight that made a round spot of light on the dusky linoleum that seemed to be making a lighted path straight towards me. Something about that voice made me feel like deer caught in headlights. Stay still. Stay silent. But then, like the deer, it became just too much for me.
“I’m going home,” I whispered to nobody in particular and stepped out of line.
“Maam, stay where you are. Please.” The DMV employee who stopped my glasses with his foot was now standing next to me, my sunglasses dangling from his well-manicuredoutstretched hand, a wicked grin playing about his lips. Oh god. Mike. Why-oh-why did it have to be Mike. Fortunately the half-darkness covered my blush, or paleness, or whatever bad thing would make me look even worse than I already did.
“Mike,” was all I could manage. I had nothing to lose by just facing him, right?
“Nice to see you again. You look… great.” He said, his smile widening in proportion with my anguish. He was really enjoying himself. I took the designer sunglasses from his slender fingers, the glasses he bought for me in Paris, and avoided making eye contact by concentrating on burying my glasses deep in the nether regions of my purse. This took some time. Digging around in my purse for as long as I could possibly delay the inevitable, I eventually came up a tiny bit more composed. I steeled myself and looked up into his dark blue eyes, the ocean never held such depth. He stood close, smelled of Old Spice and old books, still smiling at me as confident as ever. Damn. I wouldn’t make that wedding, would I?