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A friendly soup man and his ants

She sat in her new, old car.  The wind picked up so that the light leaves on the tree across the street caused a flickering of light.  Hiding the sun and then exposing it.  Hiding, exposing, hiding, exposing.  The glittering made her eyes tear.  She didn’t know why, maybe it reminded her of a beauty that she was surrounded by, but couldn’t see.  It was familiar and so it was boring.  It was familiar and so she felt restless.  It was familiar and so she felt terrified.   She was waiting in her car because that car was safe.  While she was in that car, she was going somewhere.

She bought it from her friend.  It had been first her friend’s mother’s car and then her friend’s and now hers.  So it was old, but it was new.  She tied the blessed string that had fallen off her wrist, that first week home from Thailand, to her rear view mirror.  It was a reminder that her adventure wasn’t over.  More than that, it forced to find a new one. The sunlight coming in from the windshield made the old, thin, gray string look significant.   She started her old new car again and drove.  She didn’t know where she was going, but driving was better than not moving. Driving at least gives her more of an opportunity to find something.  She was frustrated with herself that she couldn’t just be still.

The string was on her right wrist.  Her arms were tanned from being out in the sun.  The sun had set and the bustling, dusty city in Java was still busy.  She crossed the packed street dodging bicycles and mopeds and broken minivans, that acted as their bus system.  The food vendor was near the train tracks, but the girls thought nothing of it.  They had not taken much time in learning Indonesian, so they simply pointed at a pot and held up two fingers not knowing what the result would be.  They went inside to sit on two stools facing a white stained wall.  Cracks ran from floor to ceiling.  The girl with the tanned arms and white string watched a line of hundreds of ants follow these cracks up and down the wall.  It did not bother her.  The girls had been traveling together and so they knew each other well enough to be quiet.  One sat a good head taller than the other.  They waited for the man, who was excited for their business.  The rest of the stools were empty that night.  One drank a coca cola and the other a Fanta and they ate their soup.  Soup was the girl’s least favorite dish.  It made things unidentifiable, but she ate it, knowing it was the only option.  One spoonful was halfway to her mouth when she noticed ripples in the brothy liquid. And then she heard a train in the distance.  It got closer and closer and louder and louder.  The conductor sounded the horn as it approached the busy street the girls had braved.  It shook the entire shack with the stools facing the dirty, ant inhabited wall and it took the girl’s breath away.  Her heart raced as she found it once again.  It forced a feeling of self-awareness, the loss of inhibitions. She felt the need to scream. There were moments she forgot where she was and what she was doing.  As that train sped by with her spoon halfway to her mouth she remembered.

Friends came to see the stringless girl at her new job, in the bakery.  It was not as intriguing as traveling the world, but it was a job.  They sat, she disclosed about her eagerness to find a new experience.  A new adventure.  A new way of living.  The friends, being adults, having had similar feelings and stages in their lives, they simply said, “don’t forget to take some time to appreciate the journey you just took.”

The girl flushed and smiled.  She thanked them.

Now she is doing just that.  Becoming better acquainted with every nuance of every day.

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