Fiction, Writing Prompt

Polly

Writing Prompt: He had my name written all over him.
Writing Time: 15 minutes

He had my name written all over him. Literally. Polly. Polly. Polly. Polly. At least 50 times, it was written on his skin in blue marker. I stopped in my tracks. Stared. I couldn’t help it. The man looked to be 60 years old but only at first glance. My stare continued and it became clear that under the grime and the sunburn and the shaggy, unkempt blonde hair, he might have been 40. Besides the letters, the man wore dirty plaid cargo shorts and leather sandals, one heel strap loose from its seam at the inside of his ankle. Finally, he looked my way. His eyes darted from mine to the ground, to the tree, back to me, back to the ground.

Polly.

I tried to look away.

Polly.

What a strange, unsettling coincidence. That’s how I would remark to my friends later tonight. I was meeting them for drinks at our favorite bar. I imagined describing the details of the scene. I’d include the absence of anyone else in this corner of the park. Maybe I would mention the boat approaching the landing behind the man, and how the sun was low enough to catch the metal of the bench and momentarily blind you.

He wasn’t sitting on the bench, my favorite bench. He was standing beside it, one hand resting gingerly on its back. Waiting. Waiting for me? Don’t be ridiculous, Polly.

Polly.

I didn’t know where to turn. He’d seen me. He was the sort of person most people steered their path around in a wide berth, not wishing to smell him, much less chance touching him. I could see in the low hang of his neck the silent rejection he encountered in every hour of  every day. My father had taught us that every single person had dignity and worth. Even when they didn’t know it themselves or they had buried it by their choices, still they possessed it. My father taught us to always leave a person feeling more certain of their dignity than before they encountered us. Damn it, Dad. If I walked away now, this man would know rejection once more. I could feel the threat of my father’s disapproval from heaven above.

Don’t get me wrong. If I sensed any danger, I would have walked away. Briskly, my eyes and ears on alert, I would have left the scene. There was no danger here. I knew it as well as I knew my own name.

Polly.

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