The first thing she sees is a dirty old paint can, rusty with age and sun. Someone stuck a yellow post-it on its rim with u-m-b-r-e-l-l-a-s written in black bold letters. The incessant drizzle washed the arrow they drew pointing downwards away to a faint shadow. Carefully lowering her small, inadequate umbrella she steps inside the cold hallway. There was a long line of people waiting in that small office; the last woman was standing with one foot on the dank carpet and the other on the hallway’s wet cement. She lowers her umbrella into the can and quietly steps behind the woman. The baby notices her anyway. Nestled in a bright blue sling that the woman had on, it was the only one around that looked comfortably warm. It had matching blue eyes! Perhaps the sling was bought because of that. She had its full attention. The tiny gurgling noises it was making made her frown and then take a step back. Babies or anything that size are appealing, nonetheless they should carry a statutory warning: ‘Handle with care. This schmaltzy image will self-destruct in thirty seconds. In case of any sound, smell, or sight of liquids, please inform the parent immediately.’ On cue, it stopped making those noises and the tiny mouth formed a perfect, wet O. Uh-oh! Silence is not good. She looks up at the woman only to find her engrossed in the big package she is juggling along with her cavernous bag. Not to mention the baby. For a moment there, she was amazed at how straight and neat her blond hair was. Even from her profile view she could see that the lip-gloss and mascara were applied diligently. Never the one to lose eye-contact so quickly, the baby gave his sling a kick and said, ‘da!’ This time the woman looked down, one beringed hand swiftly cupping the baby’s head. She reached into her knapsack in the same thoughtless, instinctual way for her camera. But that was it, she didn’t take it out. She was all too aware of persnickety parents in this part of the world. Apparently content with the attention received, it turned the blue gaze onto the nearby heap of red and green gift wrappers. Its round white head wobbling characteristically. She was tempted to give a light tap to it to see if wobbled again but knew the thought to be rather devious for articulation. As if the thought translated itself in thin air, the woman turned around to see her. She smiled; the same innocuous, vacant smile one sees everywhere. She had a crazy thought that maybe while people see someone in their dreams, their sleepy brains would still manage that ghostly smile. The woman had turned around to move forward in the line which had turned rather short with just an old man in a long raincoat for company. The three of them waited as the short man behind the counter slid a credit card in for the umpteenth time this day. ‘Next!’ As the old man hobbled over the yellow wait line drawn across the room, she gave a start remembering the stack of postcards. They were left on the worn wooden table of the crepes place she caught a hurried snack at. Sending one short, angry glance the baby’s way, she ran out into the incessant drizzle.

The arrow was now washed away into oblivion.

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