I am sitting in the car in the grocery store parking lot, working on a short story while I let Cole finish his morning nap. I have to pee pretty badly; I may have to disrupt him soon.
But I look up to contemplate solving my bladder problem when I see a small, old, burnt orange hatchback pull in the space two down from me.
The woman driving, young – early 20’s maybe – pretty, long, shining black hair, pulls in and stares for a moment.
Is she looking at the car parked next to her on the other side? Does she know its owner?
Is she looking past the car to the Christmas trees, piled like kindling in front of the grocery? Is she debating, like I am, whether she can get away with buying one before Thanksgiving?
Does she have a clear view to the front doors of the store? Is she waiting for someone who needs a ride?
As I run through these questions, she stretches her arms straight out over the top of her steering wheel and rests her forehead on its center.
I look up again just now, and she’s sobbing into her hands; her fingers like flying buttresses bridging her nose.
I want to reach out to her. Would it be crossing a line if I went over and hugged her when she got out of the car?
She’s collecting herself, checking her mascara in the rearview mirror, wiping her cheeks of teary evidence. A deep breath and a sigh. It looks like resignation.
I would be taken aback if some stranger tried to hug me in a grocery store parking lot; I won’t force my well-intentioned empathy on her. But I want to reach out to her, to connect.
I have made up my mind to roll down my window and tell her I’m sorry, for whatever it is. But a dusty, large, old Chevy 1500 pulls into one of the spaces between us. Three enormously overweight men wearing camo hats and shorts climb out of the SUV. My view of her is completely gone. The connection is lost.
Was she ever even aware that I was here, sitting so near, bearing witness to her heartbreak?
I try to look for her through the SUV’s tinted windows. I’ll be able to see her shape if she gets out of her car.
But then the little hatchback is in reverse and she is pulling back, out, and away.