Saturday, December 1, 2007

Lights on

I've started taking more of an interest in the building beside Public Broadcasting on Capitol Street. Saturday nights, I'm usually there reading cards and the weather while Garrison Keillor turns in a carbon neutral radio show. It's a quiet gig, but I get a lot of work done.

It was a Saturday in November, I parked the car and I walked toward the entrance. Halfway across to the door, I remembered the coffee I'd brought from home to help me stay awake. Public Broadcasting has coffee. They get big packages of the precisely measured Maxwell House bags, which have the authentic Colombian taste of Juan Valdez's greasy ass.

Call me a coffee snob.

I needed the coffee and went back to get my freshly ground Mexican Organic. The lights of the neighboring apartment building glowed warmly in the gloom of the fading daylight. On the third floor, illuminated against the shadow of the building and framed by dark curtains, two women stripped to the waist were fondling each other. They were pale skinned, young and slender. I can't say beautiful. Their faces were obscured by the shade drawn partially down the window.

I stood there for a moment, surprised, amused, interested then a little ashamed at sampling someone else's moment. This thing I was seeing wasn't meant for my eyes, but wasn't stolen from them either. They weren't being immodest, just careless. I wasn't trying to invade their privacy, but had happened upon it like a penny found on the street. I wanted to turn away, but could not until they moved away from the window to some couch or bed out of my view.

I was disappointed, but relieved to be free. I'd been like a deer caught grazing in the middle of the road. I collected my coffee and calculated the likelihood of either of the women chucking a television set on top of my car from that distance. Something like that happened in this parking lot a little over a year ago.

A year ago, my old car had been smashed by an angry and jealous woman whose girlfriend supposedly was cheating on her. The woman had crept into her apartment and shoved everything she could lift out the window. Some of it had rained down on my car. It dented the roof and the hood of the station wagon. It cracked the windshield. The car took a beating, but it was insured. It was also parked because I couldn't afford to fix the rusted out suspension system.

I remember the cop who investigated the incident seemed a little confused at how I took the whole thing. He expected me to be upset, to be indignant, to be righteously angry. This was my car, but I wasn't even really annoyed. I laughed about it. It's an example of how things work in my world. My luck is seldom bad, but it's always hard.

It's truth. The things you own end up owning you. I couldn't drive the car. It was unsafe. I couldn't afford to fix it, but I couldn't afford to replace it. I was stuck in limbo, still making payments on it every month, still paying for insurance and still riding the bus.

The check from the insurance company was enough to pay it off. I was free.

Standing at my car, looking at the window, I reckoned they'd have to be Olympic hammer throwers to hit the windshield from here and quite frankly neither of them had the forearms, but that was okay. The car I have now drives fine.

God bless angry people who do good deeds by accident and bless people who aren't afraid to love others with the lights on and the window open.

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