fiction

SUSPENDED

Chris R-0317.jpg Image by Christine Renney

Three or so hours ago it seemed like a good idea. Set off this evening and drive through the night, arrive home in the early hours and sleep until late. Manage to snatch back some time for myself. But it is only just midnight and already I am beginning to flag. The road ahead is bleached by the hard light from above. It has the jarring urgency of film and I have grown weary from its unspooling. I squint through the windshield, watching, because I must.

Motorway services aren’t ever entirely deserted, not even at two o’clock in the morning. There are a handful of motorists sitting as far away from each other as possible. The service area is cavernous and my every movement is amplified. The scraping of my chair as I stand and my footsteps as I walk back up to the counter for a second cup of coffee. As I wait I notice an image printed on a sheet of paper. It is laying just beyond the till alongside the napkins. I move along the counter and reach for it.

It is the reflection of a man in one of the windows here at the services. He is sitting hunched over his coffee. The motorway fills the frame and the image is blurred. The quality of the print is poor and the paper is thin. It has the look and feel of a photocopy. But the man is much more clearly defined because someone, possibly the photographer, has taken the time to draw around him with a blue pen. And not only the man but also the space he is occupying; the chair and the table and of course the all important coffee cup. Head down, his face hidden, he is sitting amidst the glare of the headlights. I hold up the photo so that the young woman behind the counter can see it.
‘Who took this?’ I ask.
‘Don’t know.’
‘No?’
‘No, no idea,’ she shrugs and I go to put it back.
‘It’s been there for a while,’ she says, ‘surprised it’s not been binned.’
‘Do you mind if I keep it?’ I ask. ‘Save it from the trash?’
‘Yeah, take it if you want.’

I move along the walkway which divides the service area on this side of the motorway from that on the other. The man was sitting out here when the photograph was taken. I’m not sure exactly where but it was at one of the tables closest to the glass. I settle down with my coffee and I fold the image, stow it in my wallet and I gaze beyond my own reflection and down at the road below.

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16 thoughts on “SUSPENDED

  1. Oh, how I do like a bit of sybolism: the road, clearly life’s journey; the lead, a man in limbo; his detination, the life without external pressures that we surely all seek; and of course the picture, how transient and unimportant our lives are.
    Or am I over-analysing?
    A great piece, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the part about people sat as far apart as possible, very true at that hr! It struck me its like in the loo when people use opposite ends of the urinals, funny how people just know how to behave in various situations

    Like

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  4. So many descriptive images here Mark. I love the first paragraph…the rest of the piece subliminal and unexpected. I felt reading this like a fellow traveler on the road taken out of the day to day sameness into a different kind of sameness. More surreal but oddly familiar. As always….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This has to be the beginning of a novel or a screenplay…you drew me in so completely with your craft and then…
    As Jana says, “surreal”…British motorway services middle of the night cold and bright surreal. Been there.
    This is exceptional Mark and as always prefaced by just the perfect image Christine.

    Liked by 1 person

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