We pulled in to the grocery store, the cold bright of the day threatening to give way to rain. “I’ll just be a few minutes,” he said through the loose-knit scarf wrapped about his lower face. He was shopping for his mother, a miserable, ailing woman who chased me from her house with sunken knives thrown at me discreetly from her eye-sockets, sometimes even when he was watching. I sighed and turned the key down a half-notch so I could still listen to my favorite AM. I could almost see my breath in the car, but I had to save gas, had to make it to the end of this week on my paycheck, so I couldn’t run the heater. I ignored it, I was tough, weathered, and I pulled my knees up to my chest to conserve my own warmth, bent in half, shins resting precariously on the edges of the wheel to avoid honking the horn.
There were few cars parked around me, most of them dark colors and large and looming over my car, which, although he put forth a valiant effort, could not do much of anything. I glanced around the parking lot as the man parked in front of me came and pulled his diesel truck out of the space, just him, solitary. He looked tough, sad, maybe not a person I’d befriend. He seemed lost, and he didn’t notice me. I wondered why he was alone, if he was married, what he majored in, what his favorite word was, and if he liked it for the arrangement of letters or for the meaning. And now he was gone, and what difference did it make? I noticed someone two spaces down, quietly patient while they tucked their chin to their chest, in the drivers’ seat, noticeably chilled but attempting to sleep. I wondered what a person like him was doing, sitting in the drivers’ seat, waiting, and why he wasn’t in the passengers’ seat, and then I realized how incredibly foolish that was of me to wonder. He had a silver-tan car, nondescript, and I wondered how he acquired it and if he liked the smell of the pine air freshener hanging from the mirror, or if he got it as a present from someone who rides with him a lot, so he had to hang it.
I thought briefly of the boy in the store, bitterly for a moment, then shook off the thought, the blow that just grazed my sensibility. Now I was examining how everyone parked, and trying a false psychoanalysis of that because I could. In the next row over, someone had pulled perfectly straight, I had watched them do it, something I never had patience for. I wondered if it was a new driver, motivated by someone unseen, or if they liked being perfectly between the lines, liked that high, or if it was their mother’s car, or if it was just something that had been engrained in them by their mother (but it was not in fact their mother’s car). There were far too many possibilities, I suddenly became intimidated by it all.
Someone pulled up in a car, a beat-down car that putted into the space and sputtered a sigh of relief as the engine was killed. A beautiful specimen, a graceful, elegant figure, a winsome boy, pulled himself into the chilling air with a certain precision. There was something so alluring about him, I was suddenly awe-struck into studying his movement. He had a stack of flyers, and stuck one on the car next to him, and continued down the row, weaving gently in and out of the cars as if he’d done it a million times, yet expected something fresh. I could be it I thought to myself as I willed him to edge closer to my car. I watched him finish the row of cars, both sides, sticking a pastel blue flyer under the windshield wipers. Most people hate getting those, but I like it. I like finding that someone has visited while you were away, it’s like picking up the mail after a long journey, especially when you weren’t expecting it in the least, even if it’s just the coupon book with the coupons to your favorite Chinese food restaurant, or the easy-ads with hopeful sellers trying to make their noble causes known. I watched him, sweet boy, jog to my row, I could just make out his thin black-clad body slipping between the cars. His eyes were dark, eyebrows dark to match his hair, gentle and not overpowering. Nimble, innocuous. Sharp face, hawk-like, but minus the cliché, smooth, white-white skin, natural black hair. Lips red, either on account of the cold, or his perfection, I could not determine. He neared closer, passing the green van, the tan truck, two cars away from mine, shoes flat against the pavement as he barely stopped to slip a flyer lovingly on the windshield. I wondered if he’d seen me when he’d gotten out of the car, or if he was so intent on spreading the words of whatever he had in his hand to the masses that he could only focus on the inescapable cold and the cars. All of the cars, lined up, glinting. He was only a few paces away, I could see the way his breath left an impression on the passing cars, and I wanted to spell out my affection for him in the instant frost. But I restrained myself, pulled down my scarf as I anticipated his nearing.
When the tap on the window came, I jumped, eager, but it was not the flyer boy; instead, the one who’d returned with the groceries. I covered my sigh and gave a fleeting look out my window for maybe a final glance, with a cough from the cold.
Terrible shame, he ran out of flyers before he reached my car, and I would never see him again.