I'm stopped at a red light somewhere along a path I've driven countless times, when I look out my passenger window and see a little boy standing on a wall on the edge of a park. The boy is looking down at his daddy and he's crying, begging his daddy to help him down. The boy's daddy is shielding his eyes from the sun with one hand and waving his son down with the other. But the boy makes no attempt to get down. He only cries and asks his daddy to fix it, to get him down from this position he wishes he had never climbed up to. The daddy waves the boy down again and he tells the boy to jump down and the boy shakes his head and the daddy keeps on waving and he pleads with his son again.
Jump down, I can hear the daddy say even though I can't hear him at all from my car. I'll catch you.
There's only one Taco Bell in this town, and you think you own the place because we broke up a month ago.
When we sat down to negotiate our post-breakup lives, I did not argue when it came time to divide our friends. In fact, I let you have all of our friends, even the friends I brought into the relationship. My friends sucked and I needed new ones anyway.
The truth is I hoped my sacrifice would get me favor in other aspects of our negotiation. But when silence fell upon us, you blurted out, “Taco Bell is mine.” Your tone and tactic clarified this was not up for compromise. I wanted to protest, but I had lost enough fights with you to know better.
Our next-door neighbors died six months apart last year, and their daughter inherited their house. A few months ago, the daughter sold the house to some investors, who have renovated the house and thrown a For Sale sign in the front yard. Now our street is occupied by the cars of hopeful buyers creeping along and asking—Is this the one? Oh, there it is, with the sign!—and when they realize they've passed it, they pull into my driveway and shine their headlights through my curtains and blinds, and then they turn around for another look at the house.
The mature thing would be to internalize the offenses and accept the temporary inconveniences, so that's what I do. But that doesn't mean I don't daydream otherwise.
“Oh my God!” Lindsey called out from the kitchen. She must be on the phone again, Ben thought. Lindsey's job necessitated numerous phone calls throughout the day, but the number of calls had increased now that she and her colleagues were working from home. Ben's colleagues preferred to communicate via the company's internal messaging service, but he happened to be a on a video conference during Lindsey's exclamation and so he apologized for his wife's volume and raised his voice to be heard over her despite the closed door between them.
When most offices temporarily closed their doors, Ben started working in the spare bedroom he and Lindsey had previously turned into a home office furnished with a desk and an office chair and a bookshelf and a loveseat. The office, once a creative space in which Ben wrote short stories and novels he never finished, had become a place of productivity after he set up his computer monitor and hooked up his laptop and keyboard and mouse. On the wall facing his monitor screen he had installed a dry erase board and scribbled a few work-related notes. He quickly stopped using the board, but its presence made him feel more professional all the same. Lindsey had made a work station out of the kitchen table. Every time Ben stepped out of his office to go to the bathroom or to get a snack or a drink, he felt obligated to acknowledge his wife in some way—to say hi or wave or wink at her—even though she was the only person he had seen for weeks, rolling into months, and these days he was seeing more of her than he had at any other point in their lives. Their situation was not ideal, but it was good enough to allow them to work and survive the stay-at-home orders issued during the pandemic.
Looks like I messed up good this time. I mean, I messed up plenty before, that ain't nothing new. But this time I messed up good. Abby and I just had a nasty fight and she walked out and went to her mama’s house. I don't know when she'll be back. Or if she'll be back for that matter. She said plenty she oughtn't said. And it all started over a damn plunger.
“Oil Prices Slip on Surprise Inventory Build”—that's what the headline says.
I don't know how this stuff works, and I don't care to know. I prefer to imagine someone who recently finished counting one by one the millions of barrels in reserve. This guy has had only eight hours of sleep over the last three days. And those few hours were had on the floor underneath his desk. He's gone three days without seeing his family. Three days without shaving. Three days without a shower. Thank goodness he keeps a spare toothbrush and spray-on deodorant in the top drawer of his desk.
We live near DFW airport, and in the spring, we frequent a bike trail that runs parallel to an airport landing path. In the early days of the pandemic, we might have sat for half an hour at a bench along the trail and have seen only a couple planes approach and descend for landing.
“1979” by Smashing Pumpkins always makes me nostalgic for moments that never happened. The song is playing while I'm on my phone and looking at a picture my wife took of our daughter and sent to me earlier in the day. Our daughter's hands, pressed against her cheeks, are covered in paint after an afternoon arts and crafts project.
As I admire the picture, I wish I could send it to my mother, with whom my daughter shares a name.
The engine turns. The car cranks up. The dash lights turn on and flash a time or two and then go blank. Except the tire pressure light. You stare at the orange light with the obnoxious exclamation point inside that strange curvy figure. The light wasn't on yesterday. You know because you check every single time you start the car. The temperature has dropped almost thirty degrees since your last drive. Maybe that explains the light's appearance. But you're cutting it close. You'll be late for work if you take the time to air up your tires now. You don't have time to resolve this inconvenience.
The tires need to warm up. That'll fix the problem. A few miles on the tires will make the light go away.