The young woman had crossed the worn wooden dock and was now leaning over the railing, watching her reflection in the water. A tired, wan face gazed back at her. It regarded her carefully, blinking its round emerald eyes and allowing a smile that seemed to be hiding something. Scraggly blonde waves outlined the visage. The woman exhaled and settled into herself, leaning against the posts with her hands in her pockets. Dirty clouds crept through the sky above.
She was thinking, as she often did, about love lost and gained and ruined. There had been a few conquests over the years. But once a man was fully in her grasp and made himself entirely available, he no longer interested her. She had deemed herself jaded and was considering resigning from the whole game. But today, she felt a shadow of hope. Perhaps it was the way the lake shimmered under the bleary midmorning sun, or how the geese had stretched out their plumage in flight, so close as they passed overhead. It could have been the way the warm scent of coffee curled out of her thermos in a wisp of vapor. All these things were so beautiful in and of themselves that she wondered how you could go through life without someone to share them with.
It was a Tuesday. It was Tuesday and she had to be at work in an hour, but for now she could only stand at the edge of the dock and reflect on her own shortcomings. She played with her hair when she was nervous, which made her look like a ditz. She snapped at friends or coworkers when she was under pressure. Then there was the irritating habit of repeatedly expecting too much from others. And the overstocked kitchen cabinets, due to her anxiety about going hungry. On Tuesday, as you’re standing on a dock in the dim early morning, with wild birds as your only company, this sort of self-criticism can surface.
She was counting on her fingers the months it had been since a man had spent the night next to her in bed, tugging at the covers. Or reaching out with a sweet, sleeping hand for reassurance that she was still there. She always was. If awake, she met the hand and gave it a quiet kiss, pulled the palm to her cheek. Watched him in a half-dream on one of her sky blue pillows.
A slow drizzle began coming down. The young woman buttoned up the front of her wool winter coat, fumbling in the icy air. She turned away from the lake and contemplated the short walk and long bus ride before her, after which she would enter a large concrete office amid the bustle downtown and climb three flights of stairs to her small, bright cubicle. As she walked, she remembered a patch of clover spreading across the ground and ending at the last wet plank of the dock. She knew if someone were there, bent over in the rain and searching for a four-leaf clover, she would fall in love with them.