She scribbles a few letters on the back of her card and hands it to him. She smiles and says something cheerful. The words don’t matter. As he takes the card, he answers in kind, if only to keep his tenuous grasp on the vision of civility he’s retreated into. He does not think of all the countless things he would like to say, because he does not want to risk their appearance, even in his eyes. But she is not as perceptive as he fears. She has another appointment waiting, and he is not the face she puts on a world’s betrayal; he just isn’t that important to her.

In the elevator on the way back down, he presses himself into the corner though no one else is riding;  it’s the only way he can keep from pacing. He walks past the metal detectors, where a man is shaking his head as he struggles to undo his belt; false suspicion has shamed this nameless man into stripping away another layer of his pride, if only to prove his innocence. The security guard that mans the machine doesn’t notice this inner struggle the man is having, but only does his job instead. But our man notices, just before he hits the door and once more takes a breath of the good air under an open sky. He wishes he could remember what it was like to take that for granted.


by D.F. Paul


D.F. Paul lives in the Midwestern United States. He’s been writing since he was a child, when he uncovered a beat to hell typewriter cleaning out the garage. Many years and a lot of wasted paper later, he still doesn’t understand the process any better. A list of his published work can be seen at:

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