Joelle Shusterman
4 min readAug 26, 2020

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There once was a woman in a red coat. No one stopped to talk to her. She was ethereal, if she were part of a painting she would be a blur in the midst of vibrant colors surrounding her. No one knew who this woman was or where this woman was going. She sat on a bench, waiting for a destination unknown. Every once in a while a person walked by and when they saw her they made stories about her in their heads about where she was going. Waiting for the stop to go to California, she would hop a station to the city, and make it big. Her plan was to go to Delaware to search for her long lost mother. She was waiting for a lover from long ago…

When a stop was called, and when the doors flew open, people rushed out in their own mayhem, preoccupied, busy, unknowing. The woman’s hair flew gently in the breeze. An elderly man walked by mumbling. He was a stranger, but when he looked into her eyes there was something familiar, it was the same look he had seen in his daughter’s eyes, and his mind whirled with nostalgia, memories of his little girl that had once been catching butterflies in the wind that was now telling him that she had to grow wings for herself, and he missed his stop having to catch the next one. When a little girl screamed and kicked at her mother, the woman didn’t bat an eye. Her lips curved to a smile — she was aware, and because of that her presence was spread far beyond any intelligible being, the little girl’s eyes blinked in a daze, and her screams died down into little weeps. The mother looked back, but did not see the woman. She only saw something gleaming red on the bench, forgotten, left behind forever.

I once knew a girl in a red coat. I remember the scent of persimmon, and holiday spices, and how she opened up my senses to the world. Her knowledge allowed me to see what I had forgotten — the beauty to life in all of its simplicity and meaning. When I looked out the window outside my apartment I saw the chilling freeze of Chicago, a solid ice wasteland, the morose landscape of green pastures and solid roads covered by a blank white canvas, lost, and forlorn, but she took that blank canvas and painted a beautiful picture, a picture of glistening morning frost, of blues and the cool winter breeze.

The redness in her rosy cheeks and her eyes were a glimmer of fascination as she skipped through the winter wonderland, everything a discovery, her boots making small imprints in the snow as I followed behind. I knew her, yet there were so many things that I did not know about her. My neighbor that had moved in before me said that apartment 16 was vacant and then the next day it was full of color. That was when she appeared. It was like the apartment house became busy again, He said. He could always see her through her kitchen window, singing lightly to herself or baking one of her delicious apple pies.

He told me to stay away. “She’s a rarity that one, like the stretch of waves flowing in the ocean that strives forward until you can no longer see across the horizon,” but she was the closest friend I had ever had.

When we reached the thinner ice, she slid on its surface with the grace of a figure skater and then she fell back like she was performing her famous backward dive. Looking up at the stretch of stars we talked about space, about humankind, time, the universe — She did not have answers to all of these things, but she believed the answer for her life was to find happiness in the things she loved the most, and that is exactly what she did. I looked at her, outstretching her arms so delicately across the thin ice, and she was an angel. She was above all existence.

“Do you see that?” She asked pointing, and before I could predict, there was a stream of light twinkling across the night sky.

She was ahead of her time. I was always treading desperately behind. She always said she needed more to life then what she had. She wished to leave.

“Leave?” I said, “Where could you possibly go? You have no job, no money, no plan.”

She would simply smile, and nod her head.

One day when she didn’t answer my calls I walked to her house. The faint sweet smell of cinnamon barely drifting in the air when I reached her porch. I knocked on the door, but no one answered. Why she left, I do not know, but one day when I walked down the subway station I found her red coat.

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Joelle Shusterman

• An aspiring novelist inspired by her father • Feel free to indulge in her writing!