The parking lot was weirdly empty for a Saturday night in the summer. I mean it was closing time, but still, people usually hang around longer than they should or park their cars here, while they get drunk at one of the bars across the street. It was insanely windy too, like howling, really living up to the city’s nickname.
She was slumping her way through the parking lot, just looking really beat-down, clothes wrinkled and un-tucked and blowin’ ‘round in the wind. I know that feeling; it’s hard work, carrying trays around, always on your feet, dealing with rude customers who tip badly. Makes me glad I’m tucked away in the kitchen. I’m sure we were both more than ready to go home.
Meanwhile, he was leaning against his car, just looking really revved up and anxious. He looked like he was modeling the thing, or like he was a getaway driver, just waiting for his cue. The light directly above him was dead, so he was pretty much covered in darkness. You had to be paying real close attention to see him, as I always am.
I was standing stiff, not really moving at all. My legs were killing me, practically on fire ‘cause I worked a double shift. A cigarette was dangling from my lips; I was smoking it slowly as possible, savoring my time out here before I had to go back inside and clean the grill and meat slicer. I swiveled my head left and right, pretending I was like some searchlight, just looking over the whole parking lot.
I could tell right away that these two were gonna cross paths. This was not some guy minding his own business. Even though he was that far away, and I could barely see him, I knew he had something planned. Maybe it has something to do with being a man, but I can always tell when a guy’s up to something. Sad to say it, but I know we’re capable of some slimy stuff.
She kept dragging herself through the lot, and he slowly started to slide off his car and stand up. As she got closer, he started to come towards her; it looked like he was timing his steps so that their paths would meet at the exact same time.
There’s no way she didn’t figure that out because she started to move a lot slower, like really carefully. She was still all hunched over from being tired as hell, but I could tell she was trying to straighten herself into a ready stance, like an injured soldier limping through a battlefield. He probably knew she was onto him, but it didn’t seem to faze him; he kept moving along, dead-set on his plan.
There I stood, my burnt-out cigarette still in my mouth, no longer turning my head because I had to watch the disaster that was about to unfold. It could’ve only ended badly, but I was frozen there. Obviously, I had to go help this girl, right? But instead, I was just arguing in my head about what to do.
I was thinking: How long do I wait and see if she can handle this on her own? Is this guy gonna overpower her? He’s definitely bigger than her. Is that even his plan? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s harmless. No, I know how this goes; I can tell; I’ve been a man for how long? Do I go help her immediately, before this even goes down? Is it messed up to assume she even needs my help? I’m not even that big of a guy. Honestly, he could probably beat me up. I’ve seen her; she’s a tough girl. Why am I assuming she even needs my help? I’m not mocking her ability to defend herself. I don’t wanna make her feel like the helpless victim, when who knows, she could be tougher than me. She could be a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, or something like that. What if I do nothing, ‘cause I think she’s got this taken care of and something awful happens? I couldn’t deal with that. I know. I got it. I’ll go over there and ask if everything’s all right. It could scare that guy off, and it lets her take care of everything herself if she wants to. She can tell me “no” if she’s got it under control. Perfect. But what if me just asking that question makes me seem like some kind of cop, like I’m the man of the restaurant, and I’m in charge of making sure everyone’s all right?
To hell with it, I’m going over there.
By the time I had sorted all that out, they had already met up, and I panicked, feeling like I was about to witness something that I could have prevented if I wasn’t busy being such a mess.
I kinda jogged toward them and could start to hear what was being said. He was trying to get her to let him into her car, and he just sounded really desperate. His voice was wavering all over the place, like a little kid’s before it’s about to cry, and he kept saying “romantic surprise” over and over again. Looking at him, he seemed like a cool, controlled guy who knew what he’s doing, but the closer and closer I got, I could see that that was all crumbling down, and he quickly turned into more and more of a sniveling mess. Just really pathetic.
The whole time she was just staring straight at the driver’s side of her car, not ever making contact with his crazed eyes. I was about ten yards away when she started to unlock the door, and he was still hovering right behind her, like he was a begging dog and she would give him some table scraps if he whined long enough. It was when she swung open the door and began to climb in that he grabbed her by the arm and growled, “Come on!” I wanted to shout something, and a mess of words started to form in my throat, but I had no idea what they were gonna be. It didn’t matter. Before I even had a chance to yell anything, she had ripped her arm out of his grasp and managed to swing her giant purse through the air and into his face. He stumbled backwards, screaming, “What the fuck!” She grabbed the door and swung it shut, but managed to catch his fingertips while he made one last shot at grabbing her. He somehow yanked them out, then held them with his other hand, howling and swearing and just writhing around in pain. This was quickly interrupted by her car peeling out of its spot and nearly hitting him in its getaway. He watched her tear out of the parking lot and drive off into the night, and I swear you’d think his mother had just died or something, the way he was practically sobbing.
Watching that made me feel brave, and I marched toward him like he was a possum digging through the trash. He scurried to his car and quickly drove out of the parking lot, pretty much exactly the same way she did.
I scanned the now empty lot real quick, feeling, for a second, like I had done something important, when really, I had done pretty much nothing at all. I spotted some random things where her car used to be and assumed they musta fell out of her purse during her defensive strike. I walked over and examined them: a hair tie, a pack of tissues, a pack of gum, and a thin, nameless leather-bound book. It felt like a crime scene, and I left the other “evidence” where it was, but I couldn’t help but pick up the book and flip to the first page. In extremely neat, handwritten, blue ink it read, “January 1, 2000 – This is the first entry in my new diary. It will be a revealing record of my most personal thoughts. No one should, on any occasion, ever read this . . .”