At mile marker 139 on the Ohio Turnpike is a rest area. Nothing exciting about that. People come and go, fill up their cars with gas and fill up their stomachs with fast food. Maybe they grab another cup of coffee for the long drive ahead.
So, what does anyone care about the thirty-something-year-old woman who sits on one of the picnic tables outside every day? Most don’t even see her. After all, there’s nothing remarkable about her to the regular onlooker. She’s average in every sense of the word. In the crowd, she’s just another person. If you’re just passing through, you would never know she comes to that rest area every day at 3:14 AM, no matter the weather, and she sits in the same spot until the sun goes down.
She gets up when she needs to. Even this strange soul can’t ignore nature’s pull on her body, but it’s right back to that picnic table.
It’s usually the really young and the really old who happen to notice her. They see what others don’t–how she is drawn and fragile. The wind ought to knock her over. She covers her eyes with large, black sunglasses, even when it snows. Her hair is short, so short that some think she’s a man. Her fingers are yellow from holding one cigarette after another.
And if the elderly man or the little girl gets just within range of hearing, the woman mutters from time to time.
“Two thirty-nine. Three-fourteen. Five-twenty.”
Then the little girl runs away, scared more than curious. Her mom has called her back. “Stay away from strangers, darling.”
The elderly man hobbles with his walker, sadly shaking his head, for he knows something of death. This youngish woman is living death, more sorrowful than frightful.
Her name is Michelle, although her friends calls her Shelley. If she had any friends…
To be published winter 2019…