Jacob Miller sat on a swing and watched walkers parading to and from a paved walkway. Some were solitary. A large group of women walked by. As if by agreement they were all quiet and
A trio of old men sat on a bench opposite the trail. He felt like the only unemployed jerk in the world. Looking at his smartphone, he checked his email for the umpteenth time. He knew the interviewers yesterday were not impressed but who knows who else they interviewed.
One woman sat in her car smoking. Not illegal, Jacob had smoked in college. The image changed him in time and place to his college dorm room. Playing albums over and over. The things he thought he knew then and what he knew now.
This slim blonde woman was slowly jogging. Hot pink shirt shirred to show nonexistent tattoos. Black shorts a little too small, you could see the cheeks of her firm butt. She looked good. She walks up to a man stretching.
Jacob knew he should get up and walk. He checked his phone and email. The young blond woman sat in the swing beside him. He gave her a faint smile of acknowledgment. Why did she have to interrupt his solitude? Then she started talking.
“That is my ex-boyfriend Zach.”
“He comes here every day to run. I'm hoping we get back together.”
“I've got tickets for a band in Macon.”
“He has met this gross girl in one of his classes. They studied together. I don't know what he sees in her. I mean, she is so stupid. Well not stupid. She makes good grades. But a real social menace to society. Eats with her mouth open, doesn't wear make-up. Here he's got this cool car, great bod and needs a babe like me to match.”
“You think I look good?”
“You are too old.”
“Well that's true too. I was just wanting to make sure where the conversation was going.”
Silence ensued. Jacob looked at the woman. His daughter was about her age. How would he like her spilling her guts to some stranger on a swing? Sakes alive, for all that girl knows, he could be an ax murderer.
“You know, there are some things in life you have to learn.” He paused thinking for the right words and came out with, “For one thing, you should talk about these things with your dad.”
“What would my dad know about love?”
“More than some stranger on a swing.”
She rolled her eyes and shifted away. He thought about his son and daughter.
One good thing about being unemployed, he had more time with the kids. His son had complained about the tuna wiggle casserole he made last night. It was bad. Angie said anything she didn't have to cook tasted good. The dog ate the leftovers and carefully spat out the English peas.
This morning he made a souse meat sandwich for his breakfast. He asked each of his family members how many souse sandwiches they wanted for lunch. Everyone declined. His son tells his mom, I thought you liked everything you didn't have to cook. It felt good to listen to everyone laugh.
The girl said, “You're a weird old man smiling to yourself like that.”
“My son told a good joke this morning. Good memories, I promise you I am very safe. But good observation, I could be some wack job. Seriously, talk to your dad.”
“What would my dad know about love?”
“Good question? Are your parents married to each other?”
“I get what you're saying but I'm twenty. I'm grown.”
“Did you tell Zach about the tickets?”
“What did he say?”
“Nothing, said he was spending that Saturday with Alice.”
“Well here he comes. You need to make up your mind fast. Waste your time with someone interested in someone else or give him a wave, invite a friend to the concert. You'll meet someone else.”
The sadness in her eyes melted Jacob's heart.
She stood, waved. She never looked back, she just kept walking.