The clouds are grey. They are grey and heavy and hang over the sky. Sometimes they are off in the distance. Sometimes they are closer. Sometimes they wrap across, as far as you can see, and you wonder if the world is as grey everywhere else. They are grey and they are heavy and they hang over the sky, but no rain falls.
You can hear thunder sometimes, in the distance, but no rain falls.
This Publix is not your Publix. It is the one on your street, in the plaza you normally go to, but as you enter, something is off. The produce section has shifted, the bakery is to the left and not to the front, the man at the pharmacy is not one you recognize, and the HIGI scale is closer to the door than you remember.
Your eyes look for the BOGO bins. You cannot find them. You start to panic. You have to remind yourself to keep walking. Keep walking and the Publix will make sense again. Keep walking and you will find your way eventually.
The guard at the gatehouse takes your license. You cannot tell if they are male or female or something else entirely, their eyes are a misty grey, their irises blending into the white, their pupils faded. They have seen it all. Their hands are weathered. An old badge glistens on their uniform as they lean towards you.
“Who are you visiting?” they ask.
You tell them the name of your friend, but somehow it does not sound like a name to you anymore. You repeat it in your head, trying to get it to make sense.
They nod, slowly, fingers curling around your license, before jotting your name down and pressing the button to let you through.
When you pass through the gates, you feel as though something has been taken from you, something that you can never get back.
The highway is always under renovation. It has been last week and the week before that and the week before that week. The right lane is unused. It is blocked off. Some of the barricade is so high, that you cannot see through. As you drive past, you turn, trying to get a glimpse of what is on the other side. You see hands, grasping between the barricades.
At the Turnpike rest stops, you see faces. They are familiar, each stop. You wonder if the people are following you, perhaps.
It’s the same faces, again and again, variations of the same faces, staring at you, catching your eye in the crowd, before fading away.
You see the same face on a little girl, on a grown man, on an elderly person, then back on a little boy, the same face shifting, popping up at each rest stop, always following you, always turning around just as you get close.
“I live just an hour from Miami,” says the new person you just met.
It doesn’t make sense; you live an hour Miami. You have never heard of where this person is from.
Everyone is an hour from Miami, Miami is a place in the distance, that you see on highway signs, that you calculate the distance to, because you know live an hour away—you live an hour away, he lives an hour away, she lives an hour away, they live an hour away, all of you an hour away, but never together, never there.
You are waiting. In line, in traffic, in the rain, in the sun, staring at the clouds in the distance that never seem to come.
You are waiting, you wait. You don’t know for what.
Perhaps you are waiting for something to wait for. An answer to a question that you’re not sure you asked, that you’re not sure you want answered.
You stare ahead and there are clouds, grey and heavy, and heatwaves coming from the pavement, and you stare ahead and you wait.
This is exactly 666 words.