Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Trifecta: Exhausting Kindness

                    “May I?” Mandy asked, startling a man sitting on the aisle next to a vacant window seat.
                   He gripped his duffel bag close to his chest and shifted his legs so she could get by without saying anything. Relieved to get off her feet, Mandy ignored the way he made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
                   She began re-reading about the second trimester in What to Expect When You're Expecting. At fourteen weeks, Mandy was still waiting for the reduction in fatigue the book promised. Finding no comfort in the book, she gazed out the window. In the reflection, she noticed her seatmate looked like he was about to cry.
                   “Are you okay?” she asked.
                   He turned his head and stared through her. She cursed her budding maternal instincts, wishing she hadn't asked.
                   “I'm sorry. You just looked... I don't know. Sad? I didn't mean to be nosey.”
                   “Don’t be sorry. I am sad. You're the first person to ask—a total stranger. No one at work asked. None of my family. I feel invisible.”
                   “That's terrible,” she said.
                   “Yes.” he faced forward again. “You're very kind.”
                   “Thank you,” she said and opened up her book and pretended to read.
                   “You're going to be a great mom.”
                   “Thank you.”
                   “My mother would exhaust all options before asking me about my feelings. She'd buy me books or send me to a doctor. I think she was scared of feelings.”
                   Mandy didn’t know what to say.
                   “It's my turn to be sorry,” he said. “You were kind to me and now I've made you uncomfortable.”
                   “It's okay. Sometimes you just need someone to talk to I guess.”
                   “Yes. Thank you for listening. You've helped me more than you know,” he stood up, holding tightly to his duffel bag. “I'm getting off at the next stop. Enjoy your book.”
                   As the train pulled out of the station, she watched him walk down the platform and throw his bag into a trashcan.

I'm linking up with this week's Trifecta Writing Challenge. This week's word is:
EXHAUST (transitive verb)
1a : to consume entirely : use up <exhausted our funds in a week>
  b : to tire extremely or completely <exhausted by overwork>
  c : to deprive of a valuable quality or constituent <exhaust a photographic developer>
2a : to draw off or let out completely
  b : to empty by drawing off the contents; specifically : to create a vacuum in
3a : to consider or discuss (a subject) thoroughly or completely  
  b : to try out the whole number of <exhausted all the possibilities>