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At the traffic light in front of the FAO in Rome, on a warm June night, a woman in a red FIAT 500 searches for a decent song on the radio and thinks about the grotesque date she’s just had. The man was expecting her to go to a hotel room, just like that, while all she thought they’d do was talk – something she can never do with her husband. She smirks at her ill luck, at the man’s face as she left. She looks at the light, still red.
At the traffic light in front of the FAO in Rome, on a warm June night, a young man in a black Toyota Yaris tries not to think about his dying mother. About his father’s message: I don’t think we have much time left. Could you come home now? He looks at the light. Still red.
The woman finds a song she remembers dancing to that at her wedding. She thinks of her husband, waiting at home, and wonders if he will be awake. Then she smirks again. Of course, he’s asleep: always sleeping, never talking. She raises the volume, looks at the light, still red.
The young man wonders if his father is right. He wonders what would happen, if instead of turning left, to go home, he’d turn right, leave town, go to the beach, maybe call some friends. He taps on the steering wheel and looks at the traffic light. Still red.
The woman looks right. She sees a young man in a black Yaris. Could be her son, if she had any. He has a nice silhouette. She looks up at the light, still red, then back at the young man. There’s something in the way he taps on the steering wheel that draws her to him so that when he notices her, she smiles.
The young man feels it’s all unfair. It’s all too much. If only he could have a little help. Something. Anything. He looks to his left and sees a woman in a red FIAT. He’s sure he doesn’t know her but for some reason, she’s looking at him, and smiling.
The woman now stares at the Palatine hill, all lit up. She wonders how sometimes people can leave such a long trace. She turns back to the young man and finds him looking at her. He says a word, but it’s too dark to understand. She frowns, smiles again.
The young man repeats Grazie, and smiles. He takes his phone and sends a message to his father, I’m coming.
When the light finally turns green and the driver behind her car starts to honk, the woman in the red FIAT raises an apologetic hand, fiddles with the shift, waves at the young man and leaves. She thinks maybe she doesn’t need a lover but some volunteer work. Cats, maybe? Dogs? No, she’d rather help people. She wonders how it would feel, to help another person. She bets it would feel good.
Slawka G. Scarso is a copywriter, translator and lecturer. She has published flash and micros in Fractured Lit, Ellipsis Zine, FlashBack Fiction, Ghost Parachute and others. Her debut novella in flash “All Their Favourite Stories” was commended in the 2022 Bath Novella in Flash Award and is available from Ad Hoc Fiction. Two of her stories are featured in the 2023 Best Microfiction Anthology. She lives between Rome and Milan with her husband and her dog, Tessa. More words on Twitter as @nanopausa and www.nanopausa.com