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Waiting for Jane

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Two strangers, a man and a woman, share a bench on the corner of Addison and Halsted. Their parcels lean against their thighs. Hers: bubble wrap squashed into a plastic Jewel sack. His: a filthy blue gym bag with an obscure corporate logo. She gazes eastward, searching for signs of the Addison bus. He squints westward, seeking not transportation, but something else. Both are hot, tired, and sick of waiting.

He: Do you have the time?

She: Sure, about 5:20.

He: Shit.

She: I know. I've been here since five.

A minute passes.

He: Your name wouldn't be Jane, would it?

She: No. Sorry. I look like someone you know?

He: Nah (shaking his head). I don't even know her.

She: Blind date?

He: No way. I'm supposed to give her this bag.

She: (Suspiciously.) Oh yeah? What's in it?

He: I don't know. Personal stuff. Things she needs.

She: You don't know her?

He: Damn! She's not even looking for me. She'll be looking for my buddy. I mean how's she gonna...she'd recognize her bag, right?

She: Sure it's this corner?

He: That's what he told me. Wouldn't you recognize your bag? Especially if you came looking for it?

She: Of course. So where's your buddy?

He: Oh, you know. Doesn't want to see her again. One-night stand, that sort of thing.

She: So why can't you leave?

He: She needs her stuff real bad.

She: Does he know her address? Maybe you could drop it off.

He: She's not exactly living anywhere.

She: Gee, thanks (jokingly). So I look like a woman who has one-night stands and lives on the streets.

He: (Defensively.) I didn't say that. You look like you could be in the middle of moving. With the bubble wrap.

She: Oh, that makes sense.

He: Well, you're blond, right? That's all I got to go on. Not much, huh? (Shaking his head.) I could be here all night!

She: So wait till 5:30, figure you've done your duty, and go home. It's not your problem.

He: Yes it is. He paid me $20.

She: Then just give it back!

He: (Sarcastically.) You're sure you're not Jane?

She: Don't get smart...hey, maybe that's her. (She points to a young woman with short platinum hair standing across the street.)

He: I think that's a guy.

She: Go find out.

He crosses the street and returns a minute later.

He: No luck.

Walking toward them is a strawberry blond, middle management: French twist, skinny black suit, high heels, and briefcase.

She: That one?

He: He'd be here himself.

She: Thanks again!

A well-tanned, needs-no-makeup-and-never-will type clips past them in running shoes and backpack.

He: Maybe?

She: No way. She knows where she's going.

He: How do I get mixed up in shit like this? Jesus!

It is 5:40. Across the street is a woman in blue jeans, T-shirt, and sandals. Light brown hair. She smiles and waves her hand at the man. He waves back.

Jane: Oh man, I'm so glad to see this, you don't know. (She opens the bag's zipper and fingers through towels, clothes, and a box of Tampax.) Hey! (Looking up.) Where's, uh...

He: Couldn't make it.

Jane: You can tell that son of a bitch he's on my shit list, man.

He: Listen, I'm just the courier.

Jane: Well, hey, OK. Look, man, sorry! (She shakes his hand vigorously.) What's your name?

He: Uh, Joe.

Jane: Want me to pop for a beer?

He: (Shaking his head.) I can't. (He hesitates.) My wife's waiting.

Jane: The bar's right there, man.

He: I wish. No, really.

Jane: (Fanning her fingers in front of her chest like a barrier.) That's OK, man. I'm real busy myself after what your asshole friend did to me.

He: Honestly, I don't know a thing.

Jane: Man, that's all I hear. Don't know a fuckin' thing. Went back to his fuckin' place man joint's all fuckin' boarded up man fuckin' police order man I told the fuckin' landlord man my fuckin' shit's in there man he fuckin' threatens me and they fuckin' send me to some fuckin' crack house man over on fuckin' Winthrop man I say what kind of fuckin' shit man they switched the fuckin' mailboxes on me man say he's never fuckin' heard of me fuckin' four days he has my shit man I don't need that shit then I found out he's fuckin' involved in that fuckin' scam you know man you must fuckin' heard about it on TV man he expects me to I don't know what then I call again every half-hour for 24 hours finally some bitch Rita answers says he's living over on Narragansett and Belmont I say fuck! that's fuckin' way over on the west side man I'm fuckin' telling you that asshole's in so much fuckin' trouble what he's doin' is against international law I'm fuckin' telling you man he's gonna be fuckin' hearing from my fucking lawyers fuckin' soon.

He: Look, really. I have to go. My wife's fixing supper.

Jane: Tell him he's fuckin' lucky he didn't come himself man 'cause...

He: (Walking slowly backwards.) Bye now.

The man spins around and crosses Halsted against the light.

Jane: (Loudly.) Go ahead, leave! You're probably in on it too! (She lights another cigarette and addresses the woman with the bubble wrap.) Did you hear what those fuckers are trying to do to me?

The woman with the bubble wrap walks into the street and feels a deep sense of relief at the sight of an approaching westbound bus.

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