A woman stood quietly on the curb, gazing out onto anempty street. Her face was wrinkled, yet she was not old, because of many yearsof hard work but a general discontentment with life. The sides of her mouthpointed towards the floor as a result of the many long years. One would assumethat she could not smile, but that was not the case, occasionally a smile didcreep across the stony face, but it was a rare occurrence, and any grin lookedout of place.
She checked her phone, and read it to be only a quarter afternoon, and then resumed her forlorn stare into the deserted street. A fewminutes had passed, the woman lifted her eyes to across the street, took a deepbreath and then proceeded to step forward into the road. The woman couldn’thave gotten more than a couple metres off the sidewalk before she turned aroundand hurried back to her original position.
Had anyone been observing, it would’vebeen a strange sight, but nobody was there to see, as the woman had chosen thisspecific site for its freedom from the curious eye. She wanted to be alone.Once again, she gazed into the middle of the street, as her mind slowlywandered. Towering behind the woman was a factory, where many ofthe working class in the town travelled to work day after day.
It was at thisworkplace the woman had lost nine days out of every ten, 11 hours of every dayfor almost the past quarter of a century. The first time she arrived at thefactory, she was young, fresh out of high school, and very excited aboutfinally being able to earn her own money. It was never her intention to stay atthe factory for long, she just wanted to have an income while her dream writingcareer developed. With the wages at the factory, she was making more money thanher friends remaining in school would know what to do with. Her writing slowlymoved to the backburner, juggling work and parties with her old friends. Shewould always tell herself “It’ll be next year that my writing career takes off”,just after all her friends graduated. Sometimes she opened her computer and startedto write, but she was almost never in the mood, due to exhaustion after a longday of work. After a few years, her first novel was finally finished, fittedtogether like a puzzle throughout many late nights, and often, into the earlyhours of the morning.
She accepted that it was not the novel that she dreamedof, and that the next one would be the one to make her dreams come true. Overthe next year she found herself absent from any writing, although, the womandid submit her novel to just about every publisher she could. All of them resultingin an apologetic letter explaining that it was just “not the book that theywere looking for at this point in time”. This was very discouraging, and herbreak from writing extended from one year, to two, then to three, eventually,the thought of writing never crossed her mind. Standing on the edge of thestreet, just about 20 years since she had written anything at all. It may sound like this job was all the woman had, butthat wasn’t the case at all, at age twenty-five, he met the man of his dreams,and eventually, she became the mother to two children. As they grew up, shebecame prouder of them than she ever was of herself.
Both had the sense to stayin school, her son was now in college, and although her daughter had nointention of attending college, the completion of high school should at leastguarantee her some sort of future. She would sometimes lay in bed at night,stare at the ceiling and ask herself if she had ever done anything meaningfulin life, then she would think about her kids, and tell herself that she had createdsomething grander than her novel ever could’ve been. Despite her kids, the woman’s life had still been riddledwith frustration and disappointment. She had never enjoyed her job, only takingit because she believed it would only have been for a year or two.
The work wasstrenuous, the pay was nothing more than mediocre, the conditions weredangerous, and everyone else working at the facility was just as surly andcheerless as she was. More than anything, she wanted to leave her job and makea new life for her and her family. Every now and again, when the frustrationwas too much, she would vent her anger to someone, a co-worker, perhaps, or herhusband, but they always had the same response.
“So why don’t you quit?”, theywere always so encouraging, but she knew that they didn’t understand, that theycouldn’t understand what the situation was like for her. She just couldn’tleave this life behind, it didn’t matter if she hated it, it was all she knew.If she broke away from it all, the woman was scared that she wouldn’t know whatto do.
The woman had now been standing beside the street for tenminutes, although, it felt like an eternity to her. She was here to make herdecision. The woman could turn around, and walk back to the factory, and pretendit was just like every other lunch break, on every other day. Or, she couldcross the street, leave the factory on the horizon, never look back, and makesomething new for herself. Her thoughts continued to flow, most of them beingabout his youthful dream of becoming the next great American author, perhaps maybethe Mark Twain of her time. Yes, she thought, I can do it! That is my destiny.Then the contrasting thoughts of the debt she would be leaving her family ifshe failed.
If she continued at the factory, it would take him the rest of herlife to pay it off, but if she failed at writing, what then? She just couldn’tdo that to them. What if she were to die before finishing his novel? Her healthwas poor, it was highly unlikely she would make it past seventy. These thoughtswent to war inside her head, until, at long last, one side emerged victorious.She checked her phone again, five minutes until her lunch break ended. Heturned around, and began her slow shuffle back to the factory. She would workthere for ten more years, until the day she died.