By Christopher M. Drew
Let’s say you don’t stay up drinking until after midnight. That you don’t sleep through the alarm. That you’re not so late for the job interview that you call the receptionist and beg her to reschedule your appointment.
Let’s imagine the interview isn’t delayed because another guy passes out in the conference room, and that you have something other than sub-zero filtered water to drink. Maybe things would have been different.
Maybe the queue out the door of Cafe Metro wouldn’t have been so long, and there would have been no reason for you to go to the deli across the street. You would never have seen the stranger standing at the counter, would never have paid for her drink because all she had in her purse was a hundred-dollar bill.
Let’s pretend you never meet this woman: smart, graceful. Professional. The kind of person so full of possibility it makes you sick and free and terrified and in love all at the same time.
Let’s say you never read her name — Amy — scrawled on the white paper cup. Never see the dimple in her cheek, the dark mole on her neck, the heart-shaped pendant dangling in the V of her unbuttoned collar. None of it.
Let’s say fate doesn’t exist. That destiny is a joke. That your choices are important and have consequences, defining you in a few critical moments.
Let’s say this is one of those moments. A decision borne from countless others — her eyes, her smile, her skin. Her purse in one hand, a cup in the other. The drink, the alarm, the guy passing out. The queue. The billion choices that lead to both of you existing in the same space at the same time. All these things falling as softly and innocently as snowflakes, but which together cause an avalanche.
This moment: when you open the door, step back, and let her pass by.
Let’s pretend it’s you who’s blown fifty feet into the air on a volcanic column of four-hundred-degree steam. Your cheap suit incinerated in an instant. The hair stripped from your scalp. Eighty percent of your flesh peeled back exposing the raw, lean muscle beneath.
Let’s dream it’s you who has a body so scarred and mutilated that you spend the last weeks of your life mummified, plastic tubes burrowed into your lungs and stomach and bladder and arms, in so much pain that it’s all they can do to put you in a permanent drug-induced coma.
Maybe your family would have been there instead, gathered at your bedside, to make another decision. One that seems important, but is no more or less significant than the simple act of opening a door. Your family, hugging each other, weeping, as the doctor removes the ventilator and waits in silence for you to stop breathing.
Let’s pray you never cross the street, or buy a stranger’s drink. Amy. That through the chaos and noise and smoke and pain you don’t see her body soar overhead and hit the sidewalk. That you never look into her eyes, or hold her until the emergency medics pry her from your arms, her slow blood spreading through the thin fabric of your shirt like spilt coffee.
Let’s say you don’t ball your fist so tightly that the soft metal of her pendant burns a heart-shaped stigma forever into your palm. To remind you. To haunt you.
To carry her with you, always.
Christopher M. Drew is a short fiction writer from the UK. Most recently, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in TSS Publishing, New Flash Fiction Review, and The National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2018, Ripening. He is an editor at the historical flash fiction journal FlashBack Fiction. You can connect with Chris on Twitter @cmdrew81, or check out his website cmdrew81.wordpress.com.