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A Pregnant Woman with Parcels at Brock and Bagot

A Pregnant Woman with Parcels at Brock and Bagot

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Published by A. Colin Wright
Two strangers who met at a party accidentally meet again on the street--or do they?
Two strangers who met at a party accidentally meet again on the street--or do they?

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Published by: A. Colin Wright on Jun 26, 2009
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06/26/2009

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Published in Fiddlehead, No. 177, Autumn 1993.A PREGNANT WOMAN WITH PARCELS AT BROCK AND BAGOTbyA. Colin WrightShe’d started to run on the far side of the Market Square, by City Hall; now,fighting the crowds, she pushes her way to the traffic lights. Crosses King Streetfirst since it’s green in that direction and then, still running as the lightchanges, crosses Brock as well. Two blocks up Brock to the bus stop on Bagot:across the street, though, and buses often leave early, to stay ahead of thetraffic, at this time in the afternoon.While he is walking fast out of habit. Perpetually busy, he’s forgotten how totake his time even when there’s plenty of time to take—and now, from the otherside of Queen, he strides along Bagot to get back to his car, parked on the lowerpart of Brock.Their paths will intersect at Brock and Bagot: in front of the office suppliesstore with its entrance way cut diagonally across the corner, inside a pillarsupporting the upper storey. But all things (except blind fate) considered,they’re unlikely o recognize—or even see—each other as they pass.They’d never seen each other since. Had forgotten all about it.She runs past the gourmet food store without a glance at its coffees and exoticspices, although the musky aroma of groceries often entices her inside. I must gethome! Still hurrying. My husband away, and no reason for haste except a guiltyfeeling of obligation to explain it to him when I’m late. She dashes unseeing intothe sun, unaware that other possibilities could be drawing her on.At Queen Street, by the empty lot, he misses the traffic light. Too many speedingcars to risk crossing against it: a circumstance which might change his future(but will it?) by delaying his arrival at the corner. Had he known this, he mighthave contemplated the purpose in life of trivial details such as traffic lights;of buses to be caught; of strangers and pregnant women who block your way withparcels... But instead he waits impatiently, remembering he’s promised to discussholiday plans after supper before he can immerse himself in work.Unable to find her again, he’d left the party and returned to his wife, who’dstayed home that evening looking through household catalogues.Might I do something daring instead of going home? She glances at a window full oftartans suggestive of Scottish mists. Perhaps even buy a picture—she runs past thegallery just the same—something she hasn’t done since leaving college. But thesun’s in her eyes, she’s tired (it seems she always is), and she can’t bear thethought of having nothing to fill in the time downtown.The host had interrupted. Dragging her away to introduce her to someoneuninteresting, whom she’d later married and no longer knew why.Relieved that the light’s now green, he steps out across the street, driven alongBagot by the gratifying thought of how busy he is. Once there was a hotel here, herecalls, but its foyer was turned into a shopping mews long ago and only thecocktail lounge remains: a bar now, with its warm, red lighting. He strides on by,tempted by memories of easy pick-ups and intoxicating music on those (rare)
 
occasions when he has a convention out of town.Men’s clothes, a gift-shop, for that man who has everything. Do I care what myhusband’s doing on his weekend away? Oh shit!—passing a trust-company office shecollides with a parking attendant writing a ticket. Doesn’t notice the car,although in days to come (if things go right) she may find herself eagerly waitingfor it to arrive.A small consolation for a business which isn’t great or even all that interesting.Again he stands at a traffic light, in front of his bank, which used to offer asense of deserved security. Diagonally opposite, the bookstore now attracts himmore, with works on African birds, astronomy, unknown lives...He’d been about to invite her to dinner—she, to comment on his sensitive hands andinquisitive eyes, which she’d felt an irresponsible urge to satisfy.Hurry, hurry! She takes her life in her hands (why shouldn’t she, after all?) in aquick dash across Wellington Street. Barely a minute left: what if I miss the bus?Nothing much will happen, of course. My world’s not likely to change. Is it?He hurries over the main street to the boarded-up corner with its pedestrianwalkway under the scaffolding. Where, in the discount drug store, I used to buycondoms when I was young. The building’s not rebuilt yet since it was destroyed byfire, and the new one will be different, I suppose.Hell, I’ll never make it: a red sports car turning into the parking garage blocksher path. Determined still, she skips round the back of it into the road, thenstarts to run again. Why such a rush? she thinks.An evening long ago; another lifetime, perhaps. A crowded party who knows where: aplayfully casual flirtation over martinis and canapés.For a moment he slows down, glancing with a vague wistfulness at the bookstoreacross the street. There’s no real need to work this evening: but better that thanboredom, family obligations. A book, perhaps, would do as well.She pauses to catch her breath, clutching the fence round the sidewalk cafe infront of the hotel. It’s crowded, cheerful: why shouldn’t I eat downtown? But—shepresses on—I’d feel self-conscious sitting here alone: knowing no one, desired byno one, loved by no one.No, I’m too busy—and an approaching bus has blocked his view of the bookstorewindow. Passing Zeller’s Bagot-Street entrance, he comes to the office suppliesstore with its sterile desks and filing systems.That’s not entirely true, she thinks. Starts running again past Zeller’s Brock-Street entrance: my husband loves me, I suppose. The office supplies store withits blur of paper and artists’ equipment gives her a momentary, sensuous pleasure—how I used to love to write and paint!—but, out of time, she flings herselftowards the corner. Then ahead of her, against the sun, sees a pregnant womancarrying bulky parcels.It wasn’t the right time, perhaps.Instinctively he accelerates his pace. Would have explained this by hisrecollection that his car’s overdue at a parking meter.She can’t push by the woman with her parcels ahead. The bus will be leaving on the
 
other side of the street and, with no time to wait for the light, she’ll have tododge across the road in front of it. It all depends on the pregnant woman withparcels. If she goes straight ahead I can cut through the entrance way inside thepillar on the corner...When, coming from the other direction, he too will see the waddling figure emergeand fill the corner in front of him. He too will take the short cut inside thepillar of the office supplies store.Behind the woman, she’ll swerve to the right.Decisively, he’ll turn in to his left.She can’t avoid him. Out of breath, she’ll barely manage to stop.He can’t avoid her. Protectively, he’ll grasp her arms.Each about to apologize... they’ll look at each other:Recall another lifetime, or an evening long ago. A crowded party who knows where;a playfully casual flirtation over martinis and canapés. He’d been about to inviteher to dinner—she, to comment on his sensitive hands and inquisitive eyes, whichshe’d felt an irresponsible urge to satisfy. But their host had interrupted,dragging her away to introduce her to someone uninteresting, whom she’d latermarried and no longer knew why... It wasn’t the right time, perhaps. Unable tofind her again, he’d left the party and returned to his wife, who’d stayed homethat evening looking through household catalogues. They’d never seen each othersince. Had forgotten all about it.Now, in the shock of this breathless physical encounter, in their blind haste thathas driven them together, there’s no time to think of normal proprieties.“I know you... ” he starts to stutter.“I too... ” she starts to reply.And in an instant they’re kissing... unaware that the pregnant woman, stopping atthe traffic light, has turned round and, seeing them, dropped her parcels; thatanother man, also trying to take the short cut, has moved aside and taken the longway round the pillar instead.Crazily she finds herself spinning in the air as he lifts her to him. Lips andbodies pressed together, forgetting the others who throng about them, they decidethat... she’ll miss her bus.They’ll have a drink together—have dinner too—in the sidewalk cafe in front of thehotel. Laugh at the parking ticket when they return to his car. Stop to leave thefine at the collection box by City Hall as they drive away. Ten dollars, afterall, is a small price for a happy-ever-after ending—or rather, for a happybeginning to the game that they’re about to play. Who knows what the future mightbring? An affair, divorce? It won’t be easy, for passion never is: that’s the realprice they’ll have to pay. But does it matter? For a while, they’ll be playinglife’s game as it’s been offered to them: by chance, by fate or what you will...or by their own haste to participate.If the pregnant woman with parcels goes straight ahead, that is.But perhaps she’ll stop. Step inside the entrance way to the office supplies

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