Turn in line

         She fell behind, the line ahead of her moved at a snail’s pace.  She glanced at her watch, a tiny, thin-wrested thing, its face barely made a dime seem larger.  Twenty minutes already.  Twenty minutes more.  She glanced at the ground.  Her black shoes looked scuffed, must clean them when I get home, she thought.  Beyond that, the uneven cement,  concrete bumps scarring the mostly smooth sidewalk.
         The line was a half a dozen people long before her.  It seemed to be like that for ages.  Feet barely shuffled, a head would turn occasionally.  But people kept mostly still, looking straight ahead.  And she found herself doing the same.  At the lady’s weird hat in front of her.  A pink riding hat, she guessed, but with this equally hot pink colored net wrapped around it, like it just captured her hat.  It was hideous, it was making her nauseous, why am I looking at this, she asked herself.  Why?
         She turned completely around, and saw a small bald man with a beige jacket briefly look up at her, then stared back down, at the back of her legs.  Ugh!  He was actually looking at my legs!  She sidestepped to her right, and saw that everyone was doing the same thing: standing, heads down, admiring the shoes of the person lucky enough to be in front of them.
         She turned around and looked behind her.  The same.  But this time, heads looked up, and looked at her.  Some had looks that asked if she was okay, others asked if she was leaving the line.  But not a word was said, simply faces staring back out to her, why, why?  Why are we this way?
         And she turned to the head of the line.  That was why.  That machine.  We are all here to hear confession from this automated priest.  To ask for forgiveness and receive our penance.  In twenty’s.  The somber march to ask a machine if we can have our own money.  To politely claim what is very much our own.  Like it was some kind of Santa Claus, except it was a strict, unjoyous one, who didn’t even let you sit on its lap.
         She remembered sitting at a real Santa Clause’s lap, real to her at least;  she was a child of very few years then.  And as she waited in line, bouncing and giggling and slurring everything she was going to ask Santa to her mom, she took sometime to see the little children in  line with her.  Like ants on caffeine, trying desperately to keep a straight line, but bobbing up and down, is it my turn, my turn yet?
         She ran, not walked away from the line.  She could hear the machine asking her, “Aren’t you going to wait for your turn, little girl?”  Without stopping her sprint, she answered back, “No, it’s not my turn yet.”

By Don Bernal

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