Brief Encounter

By Vita Forest

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On a day where the wind roared down the roads, and every sheltered corner contained a whirlpool of flying flotsam, she stepped into the path of the wind.

She had made a commitment and she would go, despite how her ears stung and the way the gusts were pushing her backwards, up, up the hill again.  She slung her arms through the straps of her backpack, slid the toggle of her hat up firmly under her chin and jammed her fists into the pockets of her jacket.  Down the hill she went, leaning forward to make progress, down the path, down the ramp, to the semi-shelter at the ferry wharf.  For the wind still blustered through the perspex-sheeted corridor, irritated perhaps by the thin layer of plastic placed in its way.

She looked out through the perspex to the harbour, so flat and idyllic the day before, but now ridged and rough, with the white foam of breakers cresting the incongruous waves.

Would the ferries still run?

She held up her hands briefly to cover her stinging ears and stood watching the waves and listening to the wind battering against the window.  She was vaguely aware of some people behind her, reading timetables, checking phones, conferring with one another.  She looked down the length of the harbour to the city – were there any ferries?

A figure came and stood beside her.

“Excuse me?”  he interrupted gently, “Is this where you catch a ferry to Circular Quay?”

“Yes,” she answered taking in the tousled curly hair, the leather jacket, the English accent, “Though it’s so rough today, I don’t know whether they’re running.”

Just then she saw a green and yellow vessel, braving the waves.

“It looks like they are.”

They fell easily into conversation.  He, newly arrived in Sydney for work, she a long-term resident.  He, heading into the city, she to Balmain.  Where was a good place to live?  What did he like to do?  Was public transport important?

They stood facing the window, balancing on the wharf’s floor as it heaved up and down beneath their feet.  They spoke of hobbies, interests, life in Sydney (things he should try), life in London (where it turned out they had both lived at one time, he more recently).

The ferry arrived and they edged down to the end of the wharf, she exhilarated, he apprehensive, as the water tossed the large boat up and down, bumping it against the poles holding in the floating platform of the wharf, as the deckhand flung ropes and wheeled out the ramp.

They sat together and continued to talk as she pointed out local landmarks, recommended restaurants, suggested outings.

I could go on such an outing, she thought.  I could become this man’s guide, this man’s friend.  This man whose name I do not know.  I could show him these things that we have been talking about.  We could continue talking in this easy way.  It could go on.  It would be so easy to suggest.

They fell silent as the ferry climbed up and down the rolling waves, slowing as it reached her stop.

“So you’ll recognise Circular Quay?” she asked.

“Just alongside the Opera House right?”

“Right.”

He smiled, and their eyes met, their whole future ahead of them.

Then the moment passed.

And she stood up and shook his hand and they exchanged names but not numbers.  And she put on her backpack, waved goodbye and walked out once more into the wind.

 

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