The world traveled in slow motion for Gerta, trudging up the slight hill of the gum-covered downtown concrete. Everything ached and felt like it could be ripped apart by even unkind words. Yet, each time they came, it didn’t. She was consumed by bags—two grocery bags, a backpack, and a purse—because each trudge to the store was a journey that could require anything, and from which you may never return.
A bright sun is fading everything under its oppressive light and creating sweat underneath too much clothing, catching in lines down her arms that have now been there for more years than they have not. Someone sitting on the ground—another pile of too much clothing, was saying something, or shouting something, but the sound of her own hurried breath cancelled it out.
Before all these bags, this was a nice place for her to walk. On warm days like this, enjoying the freedom of having left everything but her body behind and starting over at 50, which had been a harrowing concept, it felt like absolutely anything was possible. Twenty-five years into the future, the sidewalk was an oppressive place, and the large buildings kept encroaching close and closer, overshadowing the neighborhood. A warning that the place you live is rarely your own. How quickly the whimsy of others can twist it to their own means.
Outside, next to the broken concrete steps leading to her building, there were carcasses of several dead roaches squished into various splatters. She detected the smell of urine wafting up from somewhere at the base of the building, but she countered that by bringing her nose closer to her clothing. She passed slowly by into the entryway, thinking how soon she would be able to lay down all of those bags. Until the next time she had to go out, that is.