New Novel

Here is the Prologue from my upcoming novel, “Watercolor Dreams,” set to be released December 1. It’s the first in a series based on the exploits of Jake Moriarity, a lost soul whose business it is to find lost things.

Watercolor Dreams
by R.G. Ryan​
©2015 Dreamchasers Media Group

From her hiding place inside the dumpster, burrowed deeply beneath stinking, rotting refuse, the young girl listened intently for any sound of continuing pursuit. Involuntary shudders shook her slender, athletic frame. Short brown hair, courtesy of a hasty, ragged shearing in the restroom of a fast-food restaurant, hung in damp strands framing a beautiful face whose skin seemed stretched too tightly over high cheekbones. Under haunted, dark and darting eyes, her mouth formed silent words of petition hoping against hope that the God of her childhood was still in business.

Just ten minutes ago she had been walking along a deserted stretch of the Pacific Beach Boardwalk in the city locals claimed was “America’s finest.” She had kept her vision focused straight ahead, looking neither to the left nor right, because her mother had always told her, “If you look like you know where you’re going, there is less of a chance that someone will try to mess with you.”

At least that’s what she thought she’d said.

It was getting hard to remember things like that.

Harder still to even remember her face.

Another hundred feet and she could have spent the night in the relative safety of Wayne’s skate shop, although at a price she was certain would one day bankrupt her soul.

It was hard to believe how easily she’d been found.

The two big guys with shaved heads had come literally out of nowhere, emerging from the fog-shrouded beach like twin specters floating across the sand. At first she thought that they were just a couple of guys out for a midnight stroll along the shoreline, whistling a nonsensical tune and seemingly in no hurry to get to where they were going. Neither one had seemed to pay her the slightest bit of attention so she quickened her pace in an effort to get by where they stood out on the sand. But then one had whispered her name and the chase was on.

Drawing from the same athleticism that had made her a high school track star and an award-winning dancer, there were fifty yards between them before they could even fully react. As she ran she felt as though the fog absorbed her presence like a living thing providing just enough concealment to keep her pursuers from making up the ground they had lost. Though she didn’t know their names, she knew quite well why they were here and who had sent them. She also knew that were she to be caught, her life would be over.

As to how she’d managed to tumble down the days landing so ingloriously inside such an unlikely sanctuary was a long, sad tale; just one of many in a life whose only distinction seemed to be its ability to constantly invent new forms of misery. She thought about her previous grand design—the one about dancing for some august company in San Francisco or New York, making decent money and living the dream. How foolish it all seemed.

Banishing the thought to a well-used box hidden away in the canyons of her soul—where it sat out of sight along with the rest of her memories—she lifted the dumpster’s lid slightly and risked a peek. They were there in the parking lot barely a hundred feet from her hiding place. One held a cell phone to his ear, gesturing animatedly as he talked. When the call had ended, he shoved the phone into the pocket of his long coat and cursed loudly. Then with one last fleeting look around the area, and a shouted, “You can’t run forever, kid!” they stalked away, shouting threats and obscenities obviously meant for her ears.

Letting the lid down with as much care as if it were resting on eggshells, she fell back into the bed of garbage. Without warning a sob escaped her throat. Clamping both hands over her mouth she desperately tried to stifle the emotion, but it was no use. Her shoulders shaking violently, she opened her mouth in a silent scream, took a deep breath, and then she cried. It was a child’s cry, for at that moment she was nothing if not a frightened child who wanted only the simple comfort of a parent’s loving arms.

She fell asleep there, surrounded by the putrefying stench of decay, but it seemed a far better fate than that which awaited her outside.

The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race

by R.G. Ryan

Originally published in Snapshots At St. Arbuck’s Vol 2, Available from


Six a.m. on a mid-summer Sunday morning.

I was sitting at a sidewalk table outside a St. Arbuck’s on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood—“WeHo” to the locals—doing a bit of people watching and thinking about the big adventure my wife and I were about to embark upon.

And, what adventure would that be, RG? you ask.

We were going on our first cruise.

Very exciting.

So much so that I’d barely slept.

My beloved on the other hand had slept quite well and was still asleep up in our hotel room, while I was down pounding a medium cup of coffee, with room for cream.

I heard recently that caffeine consumption actually boosts protection against Alzheimer’s when consumed in moderate quantities.

According to this study, “moderate” equates to four or five cups of coffee per day.

Works for me.

However, now that I think about it…I wonder who financed that study?


Many urban areas I’ve experienced are virtually deserted early Sunday mornings.

Not West Hollywood!

These streets, however, were already filled with people—some out for a morning stroll/jog; some on their way to work while others were just coming in from a long night of revelry.

Two doors down, a balcony overlooking a trendy sidewalk bistro was still filled with partiers, each of whom were committed to passionately greeting passersby with a hearty, “Good morning. It’s a beautiful day!”

It was true.

On both counts.

In case you don’t “know” about West Hollywood, roughly forty percent of its residents are gay and it is one of the top gay vacation spots in the world.

In fact, a gay couple had ridden up with us in the hotel’s elevator the night before and at one point, based no doubt on the amount of luggage we were toting, had jokingly asked if we were going on an around-the-world trip.

I looked at the people who were out and about that early morning—young, old, middle-aged, gay, straight, you name it—altogether quite a potpourri of humanity.

My conclusion was that either they all knew each other, or there was an unusually high degree of collegiality amongst the populace, for friendly greetings were exchanged in abundance.

I was just getting ready to re-enter the store for the purpose of securing a medium, nonfat, no-whip mocha for my wife when through the windows I spied the guys from the elevator sitting at a table around the corner from me.

Both men appeared to be in their early forties, one tall and blonde; the other short and, well, I suppose the best word to describe him would be, “swarthy.”

They had a dog with them.

I love dogs!

It was a Greyhound.

I love Greyhounds!

I moseyed around the corner, greeted them and asked if I could meet their dog, a request to which they immediately and enthusiastically consented.

Squatting down on my haunches I offered the back of my hand for the dog to sniff while asking, “Was this a rescue?”

“Yes,” replied the tall guy in a voice that seemed tailor-made for radio. “We got her about a year ago and she has been such a great dog.”

The dog—whose name, by the way was Jenny—nuzzled my hand until it was positioned in the vicinity of her ears, giving me a look that seemed to say, “You may now commence scratching.”

The other guy said with a laugh, “She does that to us all the time. Must mean she likes you.”

I chuckled. “Well, a girl should know what she likes, isn’t that right, Jenny?”

I sat down and we talked for a while—those two guys, and me—like people do.

And in that moment we were neither gay nor straight…just people.

They told me about their love of the Greyhound breed and the efforts they had gone to in order to adopt their dog.

I, of course, told them about Trixie Belle of the Ball, our Miniature Schnauzer of some renown, which prompted both of them to assure me that they’d love to meet the Belle.

(Indeed…who wouldn’t?)

The shorter of the two grinned hugely and prompted, “So, about that mountain of luggage…”

“Oh, that?” I replied with a laugh. “We’re going on a cruise.”

They both became quite animated and inquired as to where we were going.

“To the Mexican Riviera.”

The taller one threw up his arms. “We just went on that cruise. What ship?”

“Royal Caribbean…Mariner of the Seas.”

“That’s the ship we were on!” the shorter guy said with incredulity.

That launched them both on a fifteen-minute spiel during which they regaled me with tales of their adventure, where to eat, what to do, what not to do, short-cuts to get around the ship, places to avoid in Mazatlan, etc.

It was at once both entertaining and highly informational.

Noticing the time, I told them—reluctantly so, I might add—I had to be going, but that I had thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, meeting them and Jenny and thanked them for the travel tips.

We shook hands—Jenny included—and I walked into the store to order the mocha.

I walked into the store and in to a stream of thought that I had been channeling for quite some time.

As a culture we seem to be very comfortable—habitually so—with categorizing people based on their life choices, social standing, physical attributes…you get the picture.

Some take it to an extreme level by adding hate to the mix and then complicating the whole squalid business by justifying their actions and attitudes with half-truths and outright fabrications.

Since the entire basis of my personal belief system is built upon a creed wherein love is the prime directive and judgment is neither endorsed nor tolerated, I resolved while standing in line that day that it was high time to begin assertively living out what I advocated.

I walked back out of that store with mocha in hand, waved a final good-bye to my new friends and entered the living, moving, breathing tableau of the amazing race.

The human race.


The Color Of Love

*The Color Of Love

This story was originally published in, “Snapshots At St. Arbuck’s Vol 1″ available from

©2008 R. G. Ryan


It was predictably hectic at St. Arbuck’s with customers coming and going in a nearly unbroken chain of poor souls whose morning just wouldn’t be complete without the obsessive indulgence.

According to the neighborhood weather by 7:30 AM the mercury was still hovering around forty-five degrees, not atypical for the first of March, but a bit too chilly for my taste.

That’s Vegas for you: we long for the cold of winter when it’s summer, and then all winter long all you hear is, “Well, it’ll warm up soon.”

I opened my laptop and was just about to dive into writing when a young couple came through the door. He, Caucasian and she, African-American. Both extremely good-looking.

Well dressed, as if enjoying the fruits of financial success.

He had piercing blue eyes and light brown hair and she that rare combination of facial features that lent an exotic and mysterious quality to her appearance.

While they searched for a place to sit, two children, both under the age of two, contended for their parent’s attention. An empty table was chosen a short distance from my usual corner spot and the parents began off-loading kids and enough baggage to justify a cross-country trip.

It made me remember the days when it required just as much effort to make a five minute trip to the convenience store as it did to make a trip lasting several hours.

Now that I think about it, the long trip was actually much easier.


They got everyone settled—a statement that begs the question of whether “settled” is something parents of young children ever get to experience. To be accurate, I should say that everyone was settled except for the little girl, she of the oh-so-cute pigtails and impossibly large brown eyes, which oddly enough, happened to be locked onto me at that moment.

The father took his wife’s order for a mocha latte, the little girl’s order for milk and headed for the counter.

At least I think the little girl ordered milk.

Actually I couldn’t be certain, for what I had interpreted as “Milk,” could just as easily have been interpreted as, “Moke; Meek; Mao; Muck” or one of several other vocabulary annihilations. The other child, a baby of no more than five or six months, began to squall prompting the mother to reach for a bottle from the most high-tech diaper bag I’d ever seen.

By then the father had returned and the four sat in familial bliss sipping their beverages of choice, simply comfortable being together.

It was then that I found my imagination captured by something. I began to look at those children wondering how I would describe them to my wife.

I mean they weren’t Caucasian. But they weren’t African-American either.

How does one ascribe a color to offspring such as these?

And then I knew.

It had been right in front of me all the time.

Those two adorable little children were the color of love—love between a man and a woman manifested in their progeny.

The little girl turned part-way around in her seat, pointed at me and said in her tiny little girl voice, “Poppa.”

I heard her mother say, “You think that man looks like your grandpa?”

As if in answer, she turned around again as if to make sure, pointed my way and repeated, “Poppa.”

She then climbed down from her seat and ran over to where I sat, looked up at me in infinite cuteness and proceeded to start talking up a storm.

Not that I understood a single word, but to be polite I lobbed a few well-placed, “Really?” “Is that right?” “You don’t say?” replies which kept her going for a good ten minutes.

Finally, the father walked over, scooped up his treasure and said with wink and a smile, “We’re, uh, working on her shyness.”

“Right,” I said knowingly as the two rejoined the mother and little brother.

Over the course of the next thirty minutes I was so captivated by that beautiful little family that I didn’t get a scrap of work done.

“The color of love.”

“Excuse me?” said an industrious barista who happened to be wiping the table next to mine.

I didn’t realize I had spoken the phrase out loud.

“Oh, nothing,” said I dismissively hoping I wouldn’t have to explain myself.

Thankfully, she moved off to another table leaving me to my musings.

While we were sleeping a whole, new race has been born here in the midst of our years.

They are children who are neither black nor white, yellow nor brown but children of a different color.

The color of love. And to quote the late Charlie Chaplin, “What a wonderful world.”


*This story is dedicated to my son, Ryan, his wife La Vonda and my two grandchildren, Ocean and Diego.

The Storehouse Of Days

The Storehouse Of Days

by R.G. Ryan

This story was first published in Snapshots At St. Arbuck’s Vol 1, available at

I would see him every morning without fail on the patio of a local coffee bar in Barcelona. He sat there in the sun, head back, eyes closed and simply breathing. By his side a battered cane that had seen more miles than many cars I’ve owned.

A sigh, a rattling cough and his head seemed to suddenly come unhinged, dropping first to one side, and then chin to chest only to be jolted back into position as if by tiny unseen men with padded poles who had ringed his chair in anticipation of just such an occurrence.

Sleep finally conquered and he dreamed, snoring softly, pleasantly. And I wondered…what filled his dreamscape?

His lips formed a mysterious little half-smile as if in response to a favorite memory scrolling across his subconscious mind: Perhaps it was when, as a young man, he’d seen his wife for the first time. How the sun had backlit her form as she approached him over the crest of a low hill, the light dancing off her auburn hair.

And that smile radiating from her face—the smile in future years he would realize she held in reserve only for him. His special treasure, his beauty, his lover and constant companion now dead and gone these many years.

Or perhaps he dreamed of holding his first-born in his arms and indulging in a bit of creative imagination as to what life would bring to this red, squalling man-child.

Would he succeed?

Would he find happiness?

Would he find a love like the love his father had found?

Granddaughters clinging to his legs as he “giant-walked” them across the sand and into the surf, their crystalline laughter still ringing in his ears. Long, lazy afternoon siestas spent with lifelong friends at their special place on the promenade where they could talk of younger days as the sea breeze ruffled the hair on their snowy heads, at once cursing and envying the young folk who frolicked in the same sand and surf where they once played.

His eyes snapped open suddenly catching me in my voyeuristic imaginings.

A long gaze, a nod of his head, a raspy, “Bon dia,” and then sleep reclaimed him.

And I wondered, “If I return, old father, will you still be here in your place in the sun? Or will you have followed your beloved; your old friends into the inevitable embrace of eternity?”

I can’t tell you why this particular scene filled me with such melancholy, but it did.

It most certainly did.

And I’ll never forget that ancient, craggy face nor the way he looked at me with the weight of so many years behind his appraisal as if to say, “Live well, young man…live well, for you too will one day come to where the storehouse of your days holds less than the sum of your memories.”

And so I shall.

©2014 R.G. Ryan

Who’ll Stop The Rain

Who’ll Stop The Rain?

©2014 R.G. Ryan


The rain began ten days ago, and hasn’t let up once—not even for a moment. Relentless and unceasing it falls in a seeming attempt to cover the surface of the earth in a deluge of Biblical proportions.

My umbrella ceased to function the morning of the third day, which means that I’ve gone eight full days now dashing from house to car, to store, to car, to work, to car, and then home to wring out my clothes, and then fall exhausted into bed only to rise and begin the whole blasted routine all over again come first light.

On the fourth day, the overtaxed storm drainage system began vomiting its excess into the gutters, thus creating a sizeable obstacle to anyone desiring entrance to the office building where I watch the minutes of my life tick away. And thank God my office is on the third floor, else I’d be treading water instead of sitting in a mediocre chair in a coffin-sized office still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.

On the fifth day, the local constabulary closed the business district citing unsafe conditions as the reason for the closure. Not that anyone was out and about by then save for the looters who seemed neither hindered nor intimidated by the violent weather.

I hate the rain! I hate the way it beats spitefully against my window as if to say, “This thin, flimsy glass can’t withstand me forever, so you’d best not be getting too comfortable.” No worries there. I’ve never been comfortable even in the best of times.

The electricity went on the sixth day leaving the city’s residents shivering in the dark and wondering if their houses were built on ground sufficiently high to escape the rushing torrents below.

On the seventh day, ah yes, on the seventh day my old friend despair paid a return visit. There’s nothing quite like sitting alone in a dreary, run-down apartment with no electricity, no heat, precious little food and no compelling reason to continue one’s existence.

I’m not usually this maudlin, so I must beg your forgiveness as well as your indulgence. You see, what I haven’t told you is that the beginning of the rain—the very night it started, actually—brought the end of my life, or, at the very least, life as I had known and loved it for a season.

“I can’t do this anymore, Harold,” was all the hastily written and poorly folded note had said. It had been thrust into my hand, soaking wet from the downpour. A quick, insincere peck on the cheek, a sad little movement of her lips that was more of a twitch than a smile, and then she was gone, splashing through the rain as she ran to hail what would be the final taxi of the night.

I stood there feeling quite ill at ease at so insubstantial a parting; not knowing that everything I had ever loved had just been torn from my grasp.

At first I couldn’t make out the words, standing as I was in the rain—an apt metaphor for the sad little scene. When I was finally able to decipher her stiletto-like message, feel its steely point sink deeply into my heart, I am ashamed to admit that I sat down. I sat down right there on that cold, cold cement sidewalk and wept, my tears inconsequential against the rain.

Not that it had been a long affair, a scant three months in duration, but it had been good. It had been so very, very good. To paraphrase a line from Les Misérables, “She spent a summer by my side, she filled my days with endless wonder.”

And so she had.

I had even allowed myself to believe that she was the one. Only the reality of my grief eclipses the error of my thinking.

Were it possible for any of my friends to contact me, I’m certain there would be the usual patter one hears during times of bereavement from well-meaning friends and casual acquaintances alike, “You’re too good for her.” “You’ll be better off without her, you’ll see.” “Someone will come along and make you forget all about her.”

The thing is…I don’t want to forget about her. I want to remember when our hearts beat as one and nothing else existed in the earth except we two. I want to believe that one day she’ll come to her senses and return to me.

And so, I’ll wait.

Not forever, mind you, but wait I shall for a season and a day if necessary.

The silly dreams of a mad fool? Perhaps. But, then, one must have a dream or surrender one’s reason for existence.

It’s funny…I can’t hear the rain.




Flight Of Fancy

Copyright 2014 R.G. Ryan

I was sitting in the LAX International terminal waiting impatiently for the departure of my flight to Sydney, Australia. It was already a good thirty minutes late and I had started to worry since I had an interview in about 23 hours for the most important position of my twenty-four year-old life.

My name is Bree Simmons. A multi-national marketing firm based out of Sydney saw my resume on some website–hey, I papered the Internet with the thing–and called me personally to see if I would be willing to fly to Sydney for an all expenses paid interview. Sydney. All expenses paid. It took me all of about three seconds to say yes. That was two days ago. I don’t mind telling you it’s been a whirlwind since.

This interview means everything to me because, well, an MBA in marketing from Stanford just didn’t open all the doors I was promised by my advisors. Take away the intrigue of living and working in Sydney, if you want to know the truth, I’m floundering and something has to happen soon or I’ll be in real trouble.

“Attention in the gate area. Those of you awaiting the departure of Flight 1584, non-stop to Sydney, Australia, due to a mechanical malfunction this flight has been cancelled. Please see the gate agent for further instructions.”

At first I didn’t think I had heard the announcement correctly. I mean it sounded like someone just said my flight was canceled, but that just couldn’t be.

I was sitting quite close to the gate agent’s desk so I jumped up first in line and said, “Did you just say that this flight is canceled?”

“I’m afraid so, miss,” the agent said with an appropriate amount of concern. “Do you want me to see if we can place you on another flight?”

“Of course. I have a very important interview in about 23 hours from now that I simply cannot miss.”

She pecked away on her keyboard, making the same kind of clucking noises with her tongue that a dentist makes right before he tells you you’ll need about ten thousand dollars of dental work.

“Hmmm,” she said.

“Is that a good, hmmm, or a bad hmmm?” I asked.

She glanced up at me and said, “Not good. Every other non-stop to Sydney is booked solid.”

“How about other airlines?”

“Those ARE the other airlines. This was our last flight until tomorrow morning at, ummm, 6:10 AM.”

The first icy tendrils of panic began a slow and deliberate climb up my spine.

“Well, how about direct flights? I mean I don’t have to be on a non-stop, I guess.”

She sighed deeply and said, “Nope. No direct flights either. In fact, the absolute best I can do is get you on a flight to San Francisco that leaves in,” she paused to check something, “Ooh, about thirty-five minutes. You’d have a four hour layover in SF, but there is a bit of room on a flight that would put you in Sydney just about three hours later than your original arrival time. But I can’t guarantee your luggage will make it at the same time.”

With my head spinning I blurted out, “Do it! Let’s do it. If necessary I’ll buy new clothes.”

“That’s the spirit,” she said cheerfully and began attacking the keys with renewed vigor.

I turned around to check on my fellow passengers to see how they were handling the bad news. And that’s when I saw him.

Three people back in line. All six-foot something of him in his very Euro suit and his very Euro glasses and his very Euro haircut. Did I mention his smile? The smile was the only thing about him that wasn’t Euro. The smile was other-worldly.


The gate agent’s voice seemed to come from a place far, far away.

She actually had to tug on my sleeve.

“Oh, sorry. Yes?” I said, hoping the god among men would still be there if I turned around again.

“You’re all set,” she said. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“If I pay you a lot of money, can you get him,” I jerked my head in the direction of my newly formed obsession, “on the same flight with me?”

She peered covertly around me and said, “No, but I’ll let you have my job and I’ll go on the flight.”

I smiled and walked away, making sure to stray as close as possible to my guy. Did I mention that he was also wearing a very yummy, very Euro cologne?

“Excuse me,” he said in a voice that rumbled from somewhere deep in his chest. “But did you have any luck in getting on another flight?”

I stood there with my mouth opening and closing like some poor beached amphibian for several seconds before I was able to utter, “Uh, yes. But you’ll, uh, have to go to San Francisco and get on a flight there.”

His smile was electric, “Is that where you’re going?”

I returned his smile and said, “Yes. Yes, I am.”

He leaned in and said conspiratorially, “I don’t suppose we’ll have a layover, will we?”

What I wanted to say was, “Excuse me while I go over and ask that nice looking gentleman to pinch me good and hard because this just can’t be happening.” What I said was, “Fo…four hours.”

Without ever taking his eyes from mine he said, “Well, then, this is fortuitous.”

“You want some of this Cinnabon or not?”

My best friend Gloria was nudging me in the ribs and waving half of the delectable decadence in front of my face.


“I asked if you wanted some of this, because, lord knows I don’t need it.”

I looked at the gate information which indicated that our flight was right on time; scanned the gate area in search of His Handsomeness, spotted him sitting a few seats away and said, “How’s my makeup?”

Hollow Girl

Originally published in Snapshots At St. Arbuck’s Vol 3

© 2014 R.G. Ryan


It was a rare, sun splashed morning in OB, the marine layer having retreated somewhere beyond the blue horizon.

And good riddance! I mean coming from the desert I haven’t minded the cool, misty mornings, but when the misty mornings turn to misty, windy afternoons for days on end it eventually begins to wear on you.

A four-foot swell had the surfers out in force and the premium spots on the sand were filling rapidly with beachgoers out for a day of fanciful frolic: Families with enough gear to justify a week of camping; groups of young teenaged girls whose every movement was tracked with laser-like intensity by groups of teenaged boys; middle-aged couples lounging under the shade of artfully placed beach umbrellas taking in the unfolding drama with detached amusement.

St. Arbuck’s was packed with patrons, and while the demographic defied categorization there seemed to be an overarching and pervasive spirit of good humor and conviviality in the room.

Except, that is, for one couple.

They sat in stony silence, neither glancing at nor speaking to one another, their expressions reflective of people who didn’t really want to be together.

They were an odd pair.

She: Early thirties with ill-cut, shoulder length, drab, brown hair; large, blue eyes set off by a facial bone structure and clarity of complexion that could have easily been transformed into stunning beauty under the skilled hands of a makeover artist. A gray, below-the-knee shift, that seemed more suited to one forty years her senior, mostly obscured a trim and athletic figure.

He: Fifty, with graying hair that fell in greasy strands to just below his jaw line; overly large, metal-rimmed glasses; mismatched shirt and slacks; sallow, pitted complexion with thin lips that did little to offset his rheumy, gray eyes.

She took a slow sip of her coffee, peered at the ceiling over the rim of the cup, decided that there was nothing there of interest and then looked back at down at the table.

Returning the cup carefully to its saucer, she began to arrange the items on her side of the table—spoon, sugar, creamer, water glass—all placed just so, then rearranged in seeming random order as if desperate for something to occupy her attention.

The man held a flip-top cell phone in front of his face in the manner of one whose vision has deteriorated to the point that even with corrective lenses reading is a challenge, laboriously tapping out what I assumed to be a text message.

I suddenly found myself caught by the woman’s eyes—a gaze uncommonly stark and unwavering in its focus.

I quickly looked away only to glance back a few seconds later to find that she was still staring.

I looked down at my computer screen.

Glanced up again.

Still staring.

Just when I began to get really uncomfortable, I suddenly realized that there was no challenge in her eyes, no seduction, no humor, no interest…just…nothing.

She simply stared.

A bead of perspiration appeared on my forehead, succumbed to gravity and slowly moved downward, slipping past my nose and onto my cheek. I fought the urge to begin waving my hands in an effort to provoke a reaction.

Who were these people, anyway?

It didn’t seem plausible that they were man and wife, but neither was he old enough to be her father. Perhaps she was a younger sister, niece…personal assistant? For some reason I settled on the latter.

She flicked her eyes at the man briefly before returning to the object of her apparent fascination, i.e., me.

I mean, why me? Why not the guy seated at the table next to me? Was she trying to convey to me that I had something on my face, my head, my clothing that needed to be removed in order to save embarrassment? Did she find me attractive; hideous; enthralling?

In the end I dismissed all of the above as I realized that she was merely seeking some form of human contact, for it was abundantly obvious that, whatever their relationship, she had none from the man seated across from her.

Without preamble the man abruptly stood, brushed a few crumbs off of his protuberant belly, turned and headed for the door, pushing through it and walking purposefully toward a large, late model Mercedes leaving the young woman hastily scrambling to gather her things and hurry after.

Pausing just before exiting the store, she glanced briefly in my direction, the depth of despair in her eyes nearly palpable in its intensity.

Then, with head and eyes downcast, she trudged after the man as if walking through a field of quicksand, opened the driver’s door, climbed behind the wheel and drove away.

I stared after the car for a few seconds, pondering the significance of what I had just experienced, indeed, wondering if there was any significance at all or if the entire episode had been a mere random occurrence to be dismissed and quickly forgotten.

“Mate, do you know the password?” said a heavily accented voice off to my left.

Giving my head a quick shake I replied, “I’m sorry?”

“The Internet. Do you know the password to get on the store’s Wi-Fi?” said a twenty-something Australian Hipster.

I gave it to him and discussed briefly how amazing it was to have nearly universal Internet connection before returning to my musing.

Ultimately I decided that it wasn’t the girl’s stare that had left me in such a troubled state, but, rather, what I had seen in the depths of her eyes.

And while I will most likely never see her again, I will doubtless see others who struggle against the same soul stripping despondency—even in the midst of a busy, bustling, bright and blithesome coffee shop; individuals deserving of my compassion and attention.

“That’s not it, mate!” said the Hipster.

“Excuse me?”

“The password. It’s not bloody working.”

I wrote it out for him on a slip of paper and handed it across the divide between our tables.

He laughed. “Well, then, that explains it. I heard you say something completely different.”

We talked for a few more minutes during which time I learned that he was visiting from Perth and was considering a move to San Diego to attend UCSD’s International House, home to approximately 260 students from more than 30 countries who live and learn together as a community.

Life was good. He, in fact, loved his life—loved everything about it. Wouldn’t trade with anyone.

He was filled with hope.

She was hollow.

The juxtaposition of two such disparate life trajectories was startling in its contrast.

And yet, it doesn’t require a great deal of effort to alter trajectory—ask any sharpshooter or archer.

I bid him a good day, closed my laptop and headed for my giant, red Kronan Swedish Army bike, which I’d left chained to a pole outside having lost all interest in novel writing for the moment.

Hollow girl.

The black Mercedes appeared in the periphery of my vision and then cruised slowly past; he driver’s side window rolled down and the girl gave me a funny little wave.

I waved back.

She smiled.

It transformed her face.

I pedaled slowly homeward.