Jensen Beach

It has been cold all day. It is winter and this all takes place in Massachusetts. There have been rumors of snow. The man sits in his car, parked in a parking garage. He holds the steering wheel tight. There's no telling what he will do. He thinks of the dream he had the night before. In his dream he was lying in bed looking up toward the window. A man the man knew from someplace neither of them could remember was standing on the edge of the bed. His head nearly touched the ceiling. "Tell me your name one more time," the man said. "It’s on the tip of my tongue." The man shook his head and said to the man, "Watch this." Then he jumped out of the window. The man shot out of bed and took two long steps to the window and watched the man fall toward the ground. The ground in the dream looked exactly the same as the ground when the man was awake. There was a muddy patch near the fence. The man watched as the man pulled a string connected to a backpack the man had not noticed the man was wearing. A parachute flopped out of the backpack. It filled with air. The man floated toward the window, landing nimbly with his toes a few inches from the wall and said, "Timing is everything." The man said, "I live on the first floor. How did you do that?" The man waved at the man. He gathered the parachute and placed it carelessly in the backpack. "See you around," the man said. The man wishes he knew what to make of his dream. He has heard, or perhaps read on the stall of a public bathroom, that parachutes are symbols, but not if these symbols are sinister in nature or gentle encouragements about the future. The man sees a couple walking toward him. They stop at a red Camry. The man exits his car. He listens to the voices bouncing off the concrete walls and the tops of the cars. He approaches them. The man notices rust damage above the back right wheel well of the car and wonders if this means they are poor. He thinks: "There is no lesson to learn here." The man gets close enough to the couple for it to seem odd if he were to keep silent. He clears his throat and says, "Excuse me." He must look tired and worn out, maybe a little bit crazy, because the boy half of the couple says to the man, "We don't want any trouble." The man raises his hands, an animal submitting to a larger animal. He says, "I just need some money." "Let's get out of here," he hears. "Don’t go," the man says. "I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I’m in an uncomfortable situation myself." The boy gets in the car, closes the door. The driver’s side window is open a crack. The man tilts his head and lines his eyes up with the opening. "Just a couple dollars." He puts his fingers into the opening. "Please." The boy presses a button on the door and the lock drops into place. The man removes his fingers before the window rolls shut. The tires of the red Camry squeal as the boy backs out of the parking spot. The concrete is gray and shiny. It reflects the red paint of the car. The man watches the car as it ascends the ramp, makes a right turn the man remembers being especially tight. The tires squeal again. The man counts only one other car on his level in the garage. "Timing is everything," he says out loud. He looks at the large number painted on a concrete pillar a dozen or so parking spots to the left of his own car, and then he smiles until he remembers that he is alone.