The Memory

by Allison Reser

The memory of freedom was like a whisper as she ordered an oat milk latte. Nova’s Coffee & Cocktails used to be where she flew away from the hissing water pipes in her apartment for a sweet change of scenery. But today Nova’s is ghostly. Tables spaced 6 feet apart, just two customers present who lower their masks only to sneak in sips of their morning beverages. Compared to how Nova’s used to make her feel, today it made her wrinkle her nose as if smelling burning plastic.

When the first sip of latte didn’t instantly cure her sour mood, she rolled her eyes and reached into her bag to find her keys. But there was a distinct lack of jingling… Apparently she wouldn’t be returning back to those hissing pipes right away.

Now the memories of New York as it used to be seemed to be shouting in her head. In the before-times, getting locked out was like an invitation to explore something unexpected in this vast city of possibility. But now she was trapped outside of the box she’s usually trapped in.

Fortunately, the caffeine started to kick in, and it brought some optimism with it. Maybe this was still an invitation. She took another swig of coffee and began striding away from her apartment, feigning intention. She noticed all the sad things she usually notices when she walks this sidewalk – the closed shops, the bus stop ads from six months ago, and the line outside of CityMD. But today, for whatever reason, be in her slower pace or her invitation-accepting attitude, she looked up. And a bald eagle soared overhead.

A bald eagle. In Manhattan. She knows they like to catch fish from the Hudson River in the fall and winter, but she had forgotten what time of year it was. This is why it all matters, this is why she works so hard, because humans aren’t the only inhabitants on this planet.

She shivered and felt her eyes get cold. It was getting to be wintery after all. As she zipped up her coat, she heard that jingle… her keys had been in her pocket the whole time.

She no longer felt trapped. Just like the eagle, she still could choose where to fly.