Good Narrative Principles

The Perfect Parking Space


It’s hard to get a glimpse of her. The exact color of her hair. The fact of whether or not she’s slim, slimming or plump under those layers of simple clothes. Nothing fancy. Button down shirt, red it was. A nice necklace. She invests in jewelry, but the variety you can buy on the street. I believe the necklace was a series of round links that lay flat against her chest. That’s what made it so attractive.

She parks her car in a nearby lot. In this part of town, space is still cheaper and the high-rises that have come to dominate the rest of the city have yet to make their presence felt. The recession has certainly helped to cool down the Wild West style compulsive building that has afflicted the balance of the city. And so she parks in a lot and happily tips the attendant a dollar or two each time he retrieves her car  though she could, if she was another person, easily retrieve the car herself. They always do keep her car tucked in a corner near the front since she comes and goes with regularity. If she was on that TV show where the host asks the guest a standard round of five questions, she’d answer in response to the question, “what is your least favorite sound?” “that crunching sound when the rear end of my car smashes into another car, a lamp post or tree while I’m backing up. I hate that sound the most.”

Middle age always brings it’s share of surprises. There’s your son who is brilliant in math, your daughter who can struggles over the future tense when you double majored in French and German and people marveled at your easily fluency with languages. For her there is the surprise of spending so much time in her car and her blossoming love affair with her GPS. The voice she chooses is Nancy. Nancy tells her when to make a right at the corner of Flushing Avenue and guides her effortlessly through the maze of Queens to her next teaching assignment. That her love of fairy tales and traditions cultivated over a lifetime should lead her to now. This moment. Where her GPS is her primary relationship.

Finding parking around PS 188 or 153 is always a challenge. It’s worst in Brooklyn. When she travels to Brooklyn she always has to allot at least an additional hour to roam the streets until she finds a parking spot. And then the anxiety about parallel parking leaves her feeling rattled. A sense of unease that courses through her blood stream until she’s standing in front of a group of first graders, introducing them to the might of the Mayan Gods, their fickle natures and their all-inclusive powers. She leads with Acat, the god of tattoo artists, and ends with Zipacan, the demonic god of the earth’s crust. It’s a lightning fast tour, but she makes it fun for them before she brings out the “goodies” — the art supplies. The kids are always starved for them and lunge at the scissors, glue sticks and feathers until the room is a sea of chaos.

And so it goes Monday through Friday. Weekends are for writing and editing and submitting grants. This is the shape of her life now with Nancy guiding her from the Williamsburg Bridge to Kew Gardens.

And then one day out of the blue, it was a good day, a day she learned that they had been awarded a hefty grant, she was backing into a prime parking spot and hit an elderly woman wheeling a rusty shopping cart. The woman yelled at her to stop, but it was too late. Nancy was silent at that moment. No instructions forthcoming. It took forever for the ambulance to arrive. While they were waiting, and she was trying to assess how badly the woman was hurt, the woman took her hand and squeezed it saying “I hope your insurance is paid up.”

After the ambulance took the woman away, she then had to park her car. Scanning up and down the block she saw this spot was the only one. And so she backed up into the spot and just sat there silently. Looking out the front windshield. Noticing the blue sky. And thinking about how quickly things change.

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