I sat in the driver’s seat with my left leg folded into my chest- the engine off with the high beams painting parallel streams of light onto the pavement. I had just turned the car off, and there was still a vague buzzing coming from its tired parts.
He tapped on my window.
I motioned for him to get in on the passenger side; it was bitter cold and I had no interest in getting out. He walked around the front of the car, hands pushed deep into his pockets. He cut the streams of light in half as he passed through them.
I turned the keys in the ignition to hear the engine struggle to breathe. The soft sound of a harmonica began to buzz through the speakers as he opened the door and climbed in.
You want me to drive?
No, I said as I turned the volume down.
I said you want me to drive?
Well I didn’t hear you the first time. Sorry.
I don’t want to get out, it’s cold.
Wasn’t the car off?
I just turned it off a couple minutes ago, I didn’t want it to idle. I figured you wouldn’t be much longer.
Bring me to my truck, then. Would ya? Pull through there and just swing around.
He pointed to an open gate under a streetlight. Then he wiped his mouth with a hand of worn, cracked skin.
My father didn’t love his profession. He loved his family and his God and his songs. He despised the word hate. Nevertheless, I would venture to say he hated his job; though he’d never say so. One thing I can voice for certain about my father is that he made a damn-well honest living being a delivery man.
Right here’s fine. I just have to do some inventory. Won’t be a minute.
He climbed out and moved in the dimness to his truck. I watched until he completely disappeared, and then I found myself observing the high beams again. I looked as closely at the bars of pale yellow light as I could, just barely seeing the dust particles in the air, hanging about as if enclosed in them. I wondered what it would feel like to be a particle in the air; dancing about streams of light, and serving no greater purpose than simply existing. Then I thought what difference there really was between me and one of those particles in the air.
His door had opened, but I only realized this once I heard it pulled shut.
We can go now. You know the way?
I put the car in reverse, felt the wheels strain to change direction, and headed towards the exit of the lot.
We haven’t really talked since I got back from my trip.
He paused for a moment.
I guess you picked me up from the airport, but you know what I mean.
I eased my foot down on the gas as I turned onto the street.
You’re right. What would you like to talk about?
I could feel him looking at me. Possibly smiling in that goofy way he does when he attempts to talk to me and I’m not in a conversational mood.
What’s this song that’s playing?
I dunno, it’s on the radio. I’ve never heard it before.
He turned it up a bit, just as it was ending. It was only a matter of seconds before a commercial began to blare. A woman’s voice telling about a dress she had bought and how satisfied she was with it, and better yet how little she paid for it, and she couldn’t forget the jeans she purchased for her son and daughter, too, and the sweater she found that her husband is going to love. I wondered if he’d actually love it. Until I remembered she might not even have a husband, and if she did he probably wouldn’t care about a bargain sweater, and then again, none of it mattered anyways.
I guess we’ll never know the name of it, now. How was your day?
What did you do?
I woke up. I went downstairs and ate a bowl of cereal. I helped mom put the groceries away. She brought me to your car. I drove to the library- got that book I’ve been waiting for- it’s good. I went home and did some things around the house. Got some coffee downtown and read for a bit. Then I drove to your job. And here we are.
I motioned with my hand like one of those girls on the game shows who present the winning prize.
Did you put any gas in?
You know if you use the car you have to-
I know, I’m sorry. I forgot. I’ll give you some cash. How was your day?
It was alright, I guess. I’ll be getting a new route come next week. We’ll see how that goes. Turn right here, you know that, right?
Yes, I know.
Anyways, it’s better pay, at least. It’s hard to know what to expect with these routes. They could make a world of difference or they could just be the same as the others. It’s really the people you have to work with that count. A new route means new people, and who knows what- Hey. Don’t bite your nails, sweetheart. What’re you nervous or something?
I pulled my hand from my mouth and said, No, I’m not nervous.
He asks me that every time. I don’t ever feel nervous up until that point, but then I begin to, as I wonder if I actually was without realizing it, or if I perhaps should be. Or maybe I’m just perpetually nervous.
It’s a left turn up ahead.