by Robert Reed
What did I plan? Very little, in truth. An evening walk accompanied by the scent of flowers and dampened earth, the lingering heat of the day taken as a reassurance, ancient and holy. I was genuinely happy, as usual. Like a hundred other contented walkers, I wandered through the linear woods, past lovers’ groves and pocket-sized sanctuaries and ornamental ponds jammed full of golden orfes and platinum lungfish. When I felt as if I should be tired, I sat on a hard steel bench to rest. People smiled as they passed, or they didn’t smile. But I showed everyone a wide grin, and sometimes I offered a pleasant word, and one or two of the strangers paused long enough to begin a brief conversation.
One man—a rather old man, and I remember little else—asked, “And how are you today?”
Ignoring the implication, I said, “Fine.”
I observed, “It’s a very pleasant evening.”
“Very pleasant,” he agreed.
My bench was near a busy avenue, and sometimes I would study one of the sleek little cars rushing past.
“The end of a wonderful day,” he continued.
I looked again at his soft face, committing none of it to memory. But I kept smiling, and with a tone that was nothing but polite, I remarked, “The sun’s setting earlier now. Isn’t it?”
The banal recognition of a season’s progression—that was my only intent. But the face colored, and then with a stiff, easy anger, the man said, “What does it matter to you? It’s always the same day, after all.”
Hardly. Yet I said nothing.