Lakysha bumped into the suit holding a briefcase who decided to abruptly stop his forward progress without any warning. Goddam rude people in the train station, she thought. She looked up and down at the back of the man’s pinstriped office attire. The train station lost its chaotic background noise in a split second.
“Excuse you,” she offered with attitude. She walked around him and caught a sneak glimpse at the electronic readout. 11:42. Four minutes until the train departs. At least I’ll get some good, home-cooked food soon. Her stomach gurgled in expectation. No one moved around her. Panicked confusion slowly sifted into her mental mixing bowl. Why isn’t anyone moving? Lakysha waved her hand in front of the stopped man’s stoic expression. He remained frozen in place. She poked an old lady in the shoulder. No reaction. Well, fuck, what now?
Lakysha wove between the commuters, walking down the station platform hoping for one person who maintained her similar freedom. Someone, anyone, to validate her experience. She flowed through the bodies to the concrete deck's far end. Each person remained locked in place as life-sized marble statues. Lakysha noticed no eye movement, no breathing, no response to anything. Her heart quickened against her chest. Am I having some sort of mental breakdown? She fought against the growing panic. How do I get back home? How is my family? How long is this going to last? Her focus turned to getting to the family dinner table by any means necessary. She evaluated the situation as she had done during her years in the service.
She jumped off of the raised platform onto the rocky ground along the extended train tracks. Thank goodness I wore commute sneakers. Lakysha made her way along the parallel rails. She moved through the yard astounded at the lack of movement and sound. Several yard workers gathered in the distance. Their efforts with a broken cable stunted in the moment. She made her way to the first road crossing. Cars, bicycles, and even a news helicopter stuck in one position. Lakysha looked through her options. The man with one eye is king among the blind, she remembered. The woman moving is queen among the frozen or time-stopped or whatever they are. The human instinct in her wandered through the impulsive garden of her options. People had money in their wallets and she had bills to catch up on. No, I’m better than that. The stillness continued to greet her every action. She wondered what limitations this new reality would allow. She walked through the still world astounded by the surreal event.
Birds hung suspended with open, small wings against the sky like mobile toys over a baby’s crib. A leaf hung inches above an empty sidewalk section as she turned around a corner. It’s as if someone pressed a pause button and everything in the movie stopped but me. Lakysha took note of a tween fleeing an older, portly cop in pursuit. The officer's face was already flush as the pursuit began. The young man held a woman's red wallet in his left hand while taunting the cop with his right middle finger. She casually walked over to the wild-haired boy. His face registered a confident grin at his youth outlasting the officer's degraded endurance. Her hands slowly undid his shoelaces and then reworked them back together into one tie. That's it, young man. She stood with hands on her hips. Mother Time says you need a time out. She wanted to watch the event play out. The option of her mother’s homemade casserole pushed her ahead.
A half-mile later, she passed by a local bank and considered how much cash she could walk out of with. Empathy overrode the idea to its core. Someone would be fired or worse for the missing money. She embraced the reality that time could restart in a second without notice. Reaching into a cash drawer as time resumed would offer no acceptable excuses to the confused bank teller or security guard. Well, the thing that happened, your honor, is that everything stopped and I decided to take advantage of the situation, as any reasonable person would do, she imagined with a laugh to herself. Lakysha continued her way home.
She peered through a large, decorative coffee shop window to see an overbearing man with a distinct red cap mid-yell at a young woman wearing a rainbow t-shirt. He jammed a stiff finger inches from her face. His leaning eyebrow expression displayed an interrupted rage. The woman reared back in defensive fright with her small hands up behind her open laptop. Lakysha decided to enact clandestine justice. Her face lit up as she entered the shop. The lack of coffee aroma bothered her more than everyone being still. She loosened up his chipped buckle. His worn-out jeans with the back pocket wallet imprint slid down past his extended white socks. A dancing giggle pushed across her face. I never would have imagined raincoat, Hello Kitty covering a hatemonger’s junk, but to each their own. She moved the angry index finger into his nose. That should make for an interesting change of events if time ever gets back on track, she mused. Lakysha closed the woman’s laptop so it couldn’t be accidentally knocked onto the ground once the mayhem resumed. Maybe I’m the arbiter of justice, she considered. The one person to make some justice in society. I wonder if living in a massive snow globe would be any different than what I’m experiencing today.
The radiating sun hadn’t moved in several hours, creeping her out even more. The day’s quietness pushed past uncomfortable deeper into the realm of innate eeriness for her sense of well-being. Lakysha worried that her family would be stuck like everyone else. She wondered when and how the world would come back to normal. Will I ever hear Momma call me Kiki again? she considered. Will anything ever make sense?
The young woman came across a chance run-in with a tyrannical boss she recognized from a previous job. Shanda Brown, how good it is to see you, girl, Lakysha grinned. Looks as if, I, now hold the upper hand on your fate. She considered the underhanded ways Shanda had sabotaged her own budding romance with a cute, flirtatious Jamaican guy through slut shaming rumors and deliberately offsetting their schedules. You bitch, it’s time for your comeuppance. She considered all the ways she could harm the helpless woman. Dark fantasies bounded through her mind. The thoughts ranged from causing physical harm to removing the woman's clothes and putting them in a garbage bin. I bet I could find a knife around here somewhere. She nodded with a decision. Lakysha took the woman's designer purse and dumped its contents into a curb sewer grate. Good luck fishing out your boujee wallet and expensive lipstick. She scraped the thousand-dollar handbag across the rough asphalt and left the purse at the curb as if it had fallen on its own. There, consider your debt paid.
She became more brazen as her actions happened without consequences. I wonder how much more of this I will be able to do without getting caught, she considered. Her feet ached from the long walk. She went into a convenient store and took a bottle of water from the fridge. The young man behind the counter had been on a telephone call when the “stop” happened. Lakysha placed two dollars on the schizophrenic counter of impulse buys. And maybe a gum for later. She added another dollar. Keep the change, darlin’. She patted him on the cheek.
Lakysha enjoyed the water's refreshment. She spied a group of older, ranting fundamentalists while tossing out her empty container. They appeared to be protesting the new Judy Hernandez Women's Education Center. The non-profit that a local pastor decreed as blasphemy due to its young women’s empowerment agenda. She weaved through the frozen traffic and decided to make the most of the moment. Lakysha moved from one person to the next. Her smile rapidly expanded with each successful rearrangement. She stepped away from the group. Being a force of good is tiring work, she laughed to herself.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” she gloated. Each protester had their open hands with fingers parted close to their ears like moose antlers. She carefully went back through the group and eased closed their eyes. Just like their minds, she reflected. Lakysha moved their protest signs into a nearby dumpster. Imagine the good these stupid people could accomplish if their hate had been redirected towards helping others. She placed open bags of garbage around their feet. If this doesn’t upset their protest, I don’t know what will.
Several miles tore through her morning energy. Lakysha arrived at her familiar and comforting front door with a need to sit down. Her family members' cars filled the driveway and lined the street. Wouldn’t be a Saturday without a full house, she thought. A jogger remained stuck mid-stride behind her as the door opened. She entered her mother’s home with a Pavlovian smile that quickly hardened. A fly hung above a table-side appetizer dish. Seeing random people stuck in time had been one thing. Seeing her loved ones trapped in movement tapped more personal emotions. Sadness overwhelmed her. Her Uncle Smitty held his hands up as he discussed something important with Uncle Michael. Her ragamuffin nieces and nephews had been in the midst of a folding table card game. Two of the children leaned across the table full of candy bets.
The lack of her mother's afternoon cooking hit her the hardest. She always anticipated walking in and being welcomed by the comforting aroma before anyone's good wishes reached her ears. She walked around the house, taking in the situation with a heavy heart.
An interesting opportunity crossed her mind. She looked at Harold, the cousin who always needed another loan. The same young man who often filled his apartment with the newest gadgets overpaying anyone back. The same person whose wallet often held more than enough money to make good on his debts in one pass. She debated the moral implications of repaying herself. Fuck it. Lakysha slid out her cheapskate cousin's wallet and peeled out several twenty-dollar bills. Finally, some of your debt is paid back after ten years. She kissed his dark cheek while sliding the wallet back into his pocket. She stuck the folded, green bills into her bra.
Lakysha entered the kitchen cheerful to see her mother even if frozen mid-cooking. She caught the stove clock time. 11:42.The older woman appeared stuck falling forward from her chair. Her mother's eyes were wide with surprise as her hands reached out in an anticipatory brace. Her mouth held open with momentary shock. Lakysha moved to her aid. She eased her mother back into the seat's safety with a deep sigh of relief. The kitchen's sounds and sights roared back to life. Kitchen aromas overfilled her nose. The moment overloaded her senses. She grimaced at the flood of stimulation.
"... my god," Ms. Thompson called out as the unfinished sentence caught up to her. Lakysha watched her mother lower her arms. The older woman moved her head around unsure of what occurred. Her daughter being in the kitchen added another layer to the mystery.
“KiKi, when did you get home? I thought you worked this morning.”
"Oh, I did Momma, it's been a busy day already."
Confusion stacked on her mother’s deeply lined face.
"I could have sworn I was about to fall off this chair. Oof, that could have been bad." She dusted off of her spotted apron.
“Maybe you just needed a small miracle today.” Lakysha sat down on an empty chair, happy for normality. “ And maybe some things don’t require more than just appreciation, Momma.”
The matron’s eyes filled with pride. “I always feel better with you around, Kiki.”
Lakysha held her mother’s outstretched hand across the kitchen table and smiled. She rapidly reflected on each of those that she intervened with. She held back her laughter.
Her mother lumbered across the tiled floor to the family refrigerator.“Would you like anything to drink?”
The morning’s walk caught up with her. “I would love a -”
Ms. Thompson turned to her daughter for an answer. The house lost the comfort of its background television noise, family squabbling, and children's laughter. Her nose could no longer smell the meal that had been her morning's focus. Kiki sat at the table focused on the fridge without movement. Her mouth formed words that never came out.
“Kiki,” she yelled, unsure what to do next. Someone being catatonic had never been part of her life experience. She moved to her daughter and shook her at the shoulders. Lakysha’s hair bounced in place. “Lakysha, say something.” A concerned frown formed.
“Harold, Smitty, Michael. Someone get in here. Something’s wrong with Lakysha.” Her request caused no reaction from outside the sterile kitchen. Ms. Thompson burst into the living room to see her family firmly in position as if they had been covered in lacquer. Her heart jumped in panic. The family cat hung mid-jump between a scratched coffee table and its upper, sun-drenched perch. Nothing moved. Nothing made a sound. Nothing made sense. The wall clock indicated 11:43. Ms. Thompson tried to make sense of her place in a still world.