Melissa Goodnight : The Line : Fiction : May 2019

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I live in Charlotte, North Carolina with my husband and ten-year-old son.

The Line

The line shifts. I move quickly, bumping the woman in front of me. Sorry, I mumble. She doesn’t acknowledge me. I think about all the things I have to do. The door opens, and a man walks in. He’s fumbling with papers and pencils and a water bottle, with liquid dripping down its side. Not water. I move my toes up and down quickly in my flip flops. A nervous tic I developed in middle school waiting in line to get lunch, wondering if the skinny girls would make fun of me for reaching for a buttered roll or a slice of pizza. The woman glances over at the man and curls her nose. She’s skinny. He has a smell that is slowly rolling our way. I want to cover my nose with the collar of my shirt, but I’m afraid it will draw attention, and hurt the man’s feelings. The man in front of the woman in front of me, makes eye contact with the man at the door. You need in, man? he asks, motioning to the small space in front of him and the next person in line. The woman in front of me lightly gasps, then pulls a handkerchief out of her purse and smacks it on her nose, looking first at the man in front of her, then at the man by the door. The man at the door thinks for a moment. Nah, I’m good. Thanks, he says. The man in front of the woman in front of me, nods his head and turns back toward the queue. The woman shakes her head, snorts, then clicks her tongue. The ticking of the clock fills up the small room. Next, calls the woman at the window.