I pull into the Walgreen's parking lot, intent upon picking up what few items I need and then sequestering myself from the human race for the rest of the day.  My daughter is not with me, so that usually puts me in a foul mood. 

The idiot in the parking lot did little to alleviate that.

He was in a large white station wagon type thing.  He sat parked in the middle of the parking lot, which meant I would have to go around him if I wanted to proceed.  He wasn't waiting for a space.  He was just ... waiting.

I pulled around his driver's side and glanced in at him.  Ancient.  Too ancient to be driving, if truth be told.  As you get older, your reflexes get slower.  You lose your hearing.  Your vision isn't what it once was.  Yes, seniors love to be independent, but there is a difference between a senior and a fossil, and this guy was a fucking fossil. 

He stared at me, and for a second I thought he was suffering from some kind of stroke.  Then he gave me this wide smile, expecting me to smile back.  It didn't work out that way.  I shook my head and went around him, found a spot, and proceeded to walk into the store.  He was still in the same spot up until I got to the door, then he pulled up and went into a space that had been empty since I had pulled into the parking lot.

I gathered up my goods and ran into him in the drink aisle.  He looked up at me and gave me that same smile.

"Ya had ta go 'round," he said.  Smile.

"Yeah," I replied.  "Typically people pull into a space or off to the side.  There aren't too many who just park in the middle of the lot."

"I was thinkin'."

I somehow doubted that.  In fact, I would say it was lack of thought that causes that kind of thing.  People like that suddenly get to "thinkin'" as they drive down 101 and the next thing you know they pull into the opposing lane and some sixteen-year-old girl who just got her license ends up with the motor of her hand-me-down Festiva in her lap, turning her innards into burnt lasagna.

"You should have pulled over," I told him.  "Truth be told, you probably shouldn't be driving."

That smile disappeared.  He understood that.  He probably didn't understand where it came from, but fuck him.  I don't want to be on the receiving end of one of his "thinkin'" spells.

"What ya mean?"

"You were there for quite some time, blocking the parking lot.  That doesn't strike you as odd?"

"I was thinkin'."

"Perhaps you shouldn't do your thinking behind the wheel of a car while you're blocking the parking lot.  It's a good way to cause an accident."

He muttered something under his breath and grabbed a drink.  I was not sure if it was alcohol or not.  Most likely was. 

"I didn't hear that," I told him.

He walked away, and I suppressed just about every emotion you could imagine was going through my head.  You can bet I thought about how good it would feel to punch his five remaining teeth out of his mouth.  To break his ribs.  To scream at him.  Here he was, called on his shit, and I'm the bad guy. 

I watched him walk to the cash register and got right behind him.  Uncomfortably close.  His clothes smelled dirty.  I realized what the problem was.  I knew instantly. 

I followed him out to his car.  He never knew I was behind him.

"Hey," I said.

He looked up.  That big smile was back.  It faltered a little.  He was surprised to see me, and wasn't quite sure what to make of me.

"Sorry about that.  It's just that this parking lot is kind of cramped as it is, and it probably isn't a good idea to just park in the middle of it while you're trying to figure out what to buy."

"Yeah.  Probably shouldn't do that."

He had no ring on his finger.  The floor of his car was littered with Bud cans. 

"You have anyone looking out for you?"

"Why would I need that?"

Because you're alone.  Because despite what everyone tells us, men don't do well when left to their own devices, left to rot in a self-imposed isolation.  We turn our anger inward at some point because all the targets became hard to reach.  We end up drowning in all the worst excesses one can imagine -- the worst of which is apathy.  That's why.  That's why a friend, wife, girlfriend, child or someone looking in on you can help keep you human, keep you from "thinkin'."

"Yeah, I don't know," I said.  "Have a safe night."

I walked away, got in the car and watched him in my rearview mirror.  He put his car into drive and hit the sidewalk, quickly realized his mistake and put it in reverse, and left the lot smoothly.  If I had smelled alcohol on his breath, I maybe would have called the cops and then followed him, not to get him in trouble, but to make sure he made it home safe.  I didn't smell any, though, and it's hard to call the cops on depression and apathy.  They have better things to do ... as did I.

I made it home, back screaming, regretting that Saturday was miserable weather-wise for the first half of the day and I didn't get to take my little girl fishing (went to the fair just as the weather broke; will fish next week). 

I closed the door and locked it, not that it mattered.  The house was empty, and so was I.  No beer in the fridge, though.  (A bottle of vodka in the cabinet, though, seems to want to be friends.)  No thinkin'.  Just the sounds of my girl's hamster and the occasional laughter of the children next door.

I go hours at a time never uttering a word, but my car isn't littered with half-crushed beer cans.  I don't park in the middle of parking lots and wear a goofy grin as I try to figure out where I am.  I wash my clothes.  Shower at least once a day. 

I think back to my initial reaction when he mumbled under his breath.  I was looking for someone to hit, and he may have been looking to be hit.  We were both looking for some honest, real emotion.  Something to snap us out of our thinkin'. 

When you are young, the anger is turned outward.  As you grow older, those targets grow further.  Left to your devices, you turn it inward and attack yourself.  You don't have someone to keep it in check.  You have yourself, and you can't trust that.  It's a death wish with a finger afraid to pull the trigger.

I wonder if he made it home.  I wonder if he spent hours never uttering a word.  I wonder what sounds filled his void.  A house that perhaps once held children and a mate.  Maybe he leaves the TV on twenty-four seven so he doesn't feel so all alone.  Maybe the radio.

And maybe, like I am now, he just sits in the dying light surrounded by silence, wishing my fist would have got intimate with his face because then ... then he'd feel something.


drj v2010 said...

this entry is appreciated. that's all i can write for now.

-Doug Brunell "America's Favorite Son" said...

And all I may say is "Sunday."