I look down at my diamond-encrusted Kenneth Cole watch. The long silver hand nears the 7 as the short hand hovers between 10 and 11.
“Shit! It’s 10:35 already?” I mutter under my breath. I grab my black backpack off the shoe-strewn brown mat in my front hallway. I snatch my blue Ellen travel mug off the kitchen counter and jet out the front door.
Today is Tuesday and my only class of the day, Writing About Place, starts at 11 a.m. It takes me five minutes to drive to school and fifteen to find a parking spot in lot 4 or 8, the only two lots I have a pass for.
I storm down the stairs of my condo and run down the green carpeted hallway past my superintendent’s apartment, past the elevators, past the blue recycling bins. I walk across the parking lot to the last row of cars.
Two years ago I bought the last parking space available at my condo, in between two huge trucks. Today, a green Toyota Camry is parked in the space beside my black Toyota Echo instead of the usual silver Toyota pickup truck.
I fumble to get my keys out of my pocket. I approach my car and see a woman and two kids sitting in the green car.
I walk up to the passenger side of my car. The back door of the Toyota Camry is open and a little girl with thin brown hair sits curled up in the seat. Her pink ruffled dress puffs atop her legs and just barely covers a pair of black Converse. The little girl cries.
Maybe they got kicked out of their house?
I pull out my Blackberry. “Baby, there’s a car full of people parked beside me. So weird,” I BBM my girlfriend, Emily. We BBM throughout the day. Emily BBMs me when she gets to work in the morning and I BBM Emily before my classes. We BBM when something weird happens.
“Close your door,” the woman says from the front seat. The little girl sits up and slams the back door shut. I open my passenger door and shove my backpack on the seat and drop my Ellen mug in the cup holder. I walk around the car, get into the driver’s seat, and drive to school.
After class I hop in my car in the UTM parking lot and drive home. It’s 1:15 p.m. and I’m ready for lunch. I have articles due by Thursday and an analysis due tomorrow for my Native North American Literature class, a class I didn’t want to take, but needed to graduate. I haven’t done the readings the last two weeks.
I drive into my parking lot and see the green Toyota Camry in the same spot. This time the passenger door is open. A little boy sitting in the front seat leans over and slams the door shut. I park my car and steal a glance at the people in the Camry.
The car looks packed with boxes, clothes, and a puffy pink comforter in the back seat beside the little girl in the puffy pink dress. The woman sits in the driver’s seat. Dry tear tracks cover her pale cheeks. She pulls a thick brown sweater tight around her frail body. Her light brown hair lies in a heap atop her head. The woman pulls a tissue from a blue-striped tissue box that sits on the dashboard. She blows her nose and wipes her eyes.
I get out of my car, grab my backpack from the passenger’s seat and look at the family in the car. The kids and the woman all look straight ahead. They don’t make eye contact with me.
I walk across the parking lot and into my building.
After a few hours of working on assignments and articles for The Medium, UTM’s campus paper, I decide to pick out my outfit for the next day. I realize my black pumps, the shoes I want to wear, are in my trunk. I grab my car keys and walk across the parking lot to my car.
It’s nearly midnight and the parking lot is dark, illuminated only by a few street lights. I walk toward my car and see the Toyota Camry still parked beside my Echo. The two kids are sleeping. The boy sits turned toward the passenger door window in the front seat and the girl, now wearing a blue fuzzy sweater over her puffy pink dress, lies in the back seat. The woman in the front seat continues to stare straight ahead. I grab my shoes and walk back toward the lit up windows of my brown building.
“They’re still there!” I BBM Emily. The check marked “D” for “delivered” turns to an “R” for “read” and Emily types a message back. “Maybe they’re ghosts! Haha.” I hate ghosts. “Oh, I hope not. But seriously, I hope they’re okay. They didn’t look like they wanted help,” I BBM back.
The next morning I leave my condo to go to school. The green Camry is gone. The parking space next to my car is empty.