The fellow’s gaze followed her form down before his jaw crashed into the ground. She walked away, completely unaware of the slobbering fool. He appeared briefly crushed before puffing up his chest and resuming his strut in the opposite direction. A victory for all, it would seem.

The observer shook his head to himself and let his eyes fall back to his newspaper. Well, to viewing a web site held by a holding company that owned the rights to the name of a formerly well-known pusher of inky wood pulp. Things were much more optimal now. Instead of farming trees en masse to eventually deliver the news (paid primarily by large print ads that stained one's fingers), people were farmed for information by advertisers. No one was sure if anyone made money, but everyone was really sure that no one wanted to pay. Well, with cash.

He realized he was distracted by this line of thought and hadn't bothered to even skim headlines, so he shut off his phone. He was seated on a bench. A commonly used walkway was before him, frequented by the nicely dressed and those that ogled them. His eyes bounced from new arrival and departure; few paused, so his head swung from side to side like a pendulum. A movement caught his eye and he noticed a squirrel bounding off to the side. It had found something to nibble on. It bounded away. He heard birds above but could not see them. They seemed happy.

He leaned back and closed his eyes. He was partially shaded, so the light played in obscure patterns across his eyelids. The wind bustled through the leaves above. The birds were chirping about something. It was probably important. His breath slowed and he let the sounds of footsteps and trees and animals merge and diverge. Seconds and minutes fell together. He felt relaxed.

He checked the time and sighed. He stood and took a short glance around; all different people walking this way and that from the time he had last had his eyes open. He shrugged and slowly began his way back. He let his mind drift and wander. His gaze was mostly at his feet. As a result, he bumped into her as she was backing up to take a photo.

Both of them were embarrassed for not seeing and avoiding the other and apologized. She took the photo and handed the phone off to the couple who had asked for help. He thought it was both nice of her to do that, but also nice that they didn't devolve into taking a selfie. For some reason it bothered him that people did that in public.

She asked if he was okay, and he realized he had been scowling due to his thoughts on public selfies. Her dress looked familiar. His brain did a quick search and was fairly certain that she was the jaw dropper. She asked what was so funny, so he related how he had seen her earlier and her impact on his fellow male observer. She laughed and said she hadn't even noticed the other guy. His brain made a mental note that she did not say she had not noticed him, but it also cautioned not to get his hopes up. He agreed with his brain. Another victory.

They continued along the path together, idling chatting. She seemed interesting. They came to a fork; she nodded off to the left and said she had to get back to work. He motioned to the right and said he was parked over yonder. He mentally hit himself for using the word “yonder”. They waved, parting on good terms. He walked along for a dozen yards with a spring in his step before realizing he hadn't asked for her name, number, or anything. He slapped himself (physically, this time) and looked back; she was gone. He debated briefly about running back for her, but thought that might seem stalkerish. He let it go. Or tried to. It was a beautiful day. He had relaxed nicely and met someone new. But now he was driving back home, doubting he'd see her again. He didn't feel angry or sad, but oddly anxious and lost.

Stories weren't supposed to end this way.

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