Today I was driving past the building where I used to work before the state sold out and privatized the jobs we had for years, before that particular bullet was lodged in that particular educational foot. Maybe it was out of habit or nostalgia, the flower blossoms splattered in the parking lot, the café off the lobby with the giggly Chinese owners and the Tuesday Chicken Wraps. In any case I swerved in and sat there with my engine running for a minute, thinking about getting out and going inside, even though our whole department must be closed by now, the loose-end tiers having tied up the loose ends months ago.
I sat in a space beside an SUV with my hands on the steering wheel and remembered the time I thought I’d scratched a Lexus when I pulled in late and half awake, how I’d confessed this to the doorman. Mr. Wonderful, we called him. At least I did. He was retired from somewhere – I forget the story – and he ran a tight ship. Nothing escaped Mr. Wonderful – a hesitating car, a suspicious package – a dead engine; he was on it. I remembered him trekking out behind me in his boots the Morning of the Scratch, the coattails of his uniform flapping a little in the wind, how he stooped to eye the mark from every angle, flattening his hands in the air, calculating carefully before he found me innocent.
I was definitely lurking out there in the parking lot, definitely sliding around in time, remembering the Publix cakes in cardboard boxes, the prison papers inked with dreams, and all those secrets sealed inside a room with crappy lights. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel and watched a woman I didn’t recognize go back inside and reappear with Mr. Wonderful in tow. She gestured toward my car, loitering and puffing in the space with all the rotted petals.
I thought about getting out, about waving my hands. I thought about saying “Hey! It’s me! Remember?” I didn’t though. I just backed out and left. It was like looking at a scene in a snow globe with all the people lined up and singing and the church and the shops and the snow falling down and everything’s the same but really nothing is.