The buzzer echoed throughout the mall from every device. R.C. stopped walking and looked around at the sound. The middle-aged man caught sight of a young woman also searching the mall curiously. The moment they locked eyes R.C. smiled and took several quick steps in her direction. For her part, the brown-haired woman did the same. Also with a smile on her face.
“Hi, my name’s Becky Salinas,” she offered her hand. “What’s yours?”
“Rueben Christopher Branson,” he said as he shook her hand. “My friends call me R.C. I’m 44 years old…,” he said with a shrug. After they shook hands, R.C gestured at a nearby bench. Despite the rest of the mallgoers stopping to chat on the spot, there was still enough space for her to sit. Everyone paired or grouped off with the nearest strangers at the sound of the buzzer. “…and I think my biggest regret is: In all those years, I’ve never set foot outside this city. I thought about it a few times. But, I kept putting it off.” Becky nodded.
“It’s always the same, isn’t it?” she asked. “We regret the chances we didn’t take; the options we didn’t explore. I’ve always dreamed of making beautiful pottery with my own hands,” she giggled. “It took me twenty minutes to finally take my first class.”
“Hey, that’s awesome!” R.C. said. “Congratulations! I might be too old to learn new tricks though; I’ve been using the same regret for about 40 minutes now. I can’t even remember what it was before that.”
“Well, it doesn’t have to be 41,” Becky said with a smile. “Since I picked that up, my new biggest regret is taking so long to act. I’m going to try not to let that happen anymore, I think,” She glanced at her watch and nodded. “I’m single with no kids. My parents live in California.” Becky stood from the bench and dug her cellphone out of her purse. R.C. pulled his own phone out.
“No family, no friends,” R.C. said. “no real reason to leave town at all. But, I’ll try not to have the same regret in another minute. So, if it’s me; congratulations on your inheritance,” he said with a smile. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Becky,” he unlocked his phone and held it out on the palm of his hand as the seconds counted down from five. Becky did the same.
“You too, R.C,” she said. The timer reached zero on their phones and everyone in the mall released an audible sigh when they found they were still standing. Then, the alert came in on everyone’s phone.
“Someone in Chicago,” R.C. said as he turned off his phone and pocketed it again. “Good luck on your pottery classes, Becky.”
“You just got yourself another month to leave town,” Becky said with a smile. “Good luck R.C.” The two former strangers nodded at each other and carried on their separate ways. As R.C. walked back to his truck he debated taking an extra long drive. He didn’t want to keep recycling that same regret; knew he’d run out of minutes eventually.