Sometimes things turn out okay. This morning, for example. I’m driving to work and I’m going to be late because I remembered the parking structure is being sprayed to exterminate that beetle that eats car paint, so it means I am going to spend ten to twenty minutes finding a space, but then I take the wrong freeway exit and a nice, parking meter-free street appears. It ends in a walkway that leads straight to a bridge over the freeway, right to a path that meanders to the office building.
I don’t know how I didn’t see it before.
In the elevator up to work, someone asks me why I’m smiling, and I can’t tell them, because that would definitely ruin my little find. A place to park during this whole paint beetle debacle is the sort of thing that people crowd around like donuts from the good place, the place that was featured on “Good Morning America” that puts real fruit in the frosting, not the place where two letters are burned out, leaving the unappetizing “NUTS” lit during the early morning donut run.
Work is work is work, is work.
The next day is the second to last day of the beetle extermination so I park in the same spot and walk across the bridge, noticing a blue chalk scrawl that brightly proclaims: “If loneliness were something you could hang up on the wall, then I could be a priceless piece of art.” The message goes from one end of the bridge to the other, and I either want to take a hose to it or spray some sort of glue fixative to it. I’m not sure if I’m lonely or if I just think loneliness is beautiful. When I get to my office I look it up on google. People have said things kind of like it.
I wonder if a kid wrote it for about 3 or 4 minutes, and then I start working and I forget about it, and work is work is work untl the next day, the last day that pesticide is supposed to disperse, and the message is gone. In its place is something else, scrawled in a different, vibrant green.
“I’m in love with the idea that love will not fulfill me as much as all the money that I’ll make from being famous.”
I get to work and I’m sad and I’m misremembering the quote. I have a meeting and I scratch out what I think the quote is on a piece of paper, and then I realize I haven’t been paying attention to the meeting, and then work is work is work and then it’s over. I go home and I make instant macaroni and cheese and watch the television show that the whole office is watching; so I have to if I want to be able to talk to anyone tomorrow.
When I’m driving to work, I remember I do not have to park in that neighborhood for the day – the beetle pesticide is gone. My car’s paint is safe. Everyone can park without any fear of anything. I choose the “wrong” exit and park in the neighborhood again anyway. It’s best to be safe about these things. I should give the pesticide ample time to disperse.
On the bridge, the message has changed again. Back to blue and much more contained, the letters much smaller and only a quarter of the bridge is full. “If I don’t feel love then do I feel lonely? Or do I feel something much worse?” This time I write it down on a pad of paper I keep in my briefcase alongside the notes I took from the television show, all my talking points.
At work I accidentally ask the question in the middle of a discussion about the television show at the water cooler. Someone asks me what I mean, and I tell them, maybe the love interest is thinking it, and everyone looks into their respective cups of water and coffee and thinks for a second, and then they go back to their desks because the boss is around and he asks us what we thought of the television show, and we don’t want to talk about it with him, so we just say we didn’t see it.
When I walk back to my car, I stop at the chalk writing and stoop down and take a fresh sheet of notebook paper out of my notebook. Do you need to talk? You can talk to me at five thirty tomorrow, I write. I’ll be here and we can talk. I find a rock near my car and take my piece of paper and put it underneath a rock and then go home.
The next day is Friday, and I’m late because I went into one of those shower comas where the water is hitting you in just the right rhythm that it’s like you’ve fallen asleep. I only woke up because the hot water ran out and at that point I had 10 minutes to get to work. I park in the parking lot and work. And the boss talks to me about being late and I derail him by saying I caught the episode of the show and we talk about it and I say the quote from the sidewalk and he smiles and thinks about it and dismisses me.
I go back to my car and drive halfway home before I realize it’s 6pm and I should’ve been there to talk to whoever writes the chalk messages. I drive back, like a mad man. I take the “wrong” exit and I park on the street and run to the bridge, but there’s nobody there. There’s no writing. There’s nothing.
I kick myself for being so stupid, leave another note about meeting on Monday, and make way for the ambulance before I get back on the freeway to head home.