Parking Lot Love
I want to write about my love of parking lots but am lying in bed with two dogs lodged comfortably on either side of me, and because my roof is made of glass, I’m staring up at the bottom of a blue jay and a lot of clouds. I’m wondering what the hell ARE clouds. I know they are vapor, but really, that doesn’t cover it. These are big and burly and I wonder where they are headed at such a rapid rate. Now I hear a plane, and catch a silvery glimpse. I used to stare at the underside of jets to see what sex they were. Ridiculous, but I always checked them out. Meanwhile the blue jay flies off without my getting a good look.
It’s a hot morning. I get up. The dogs remain in bed.
I don’t love all parking lots. The ones you can see from space remind me of cemeteries. I don’t shop at the huge depressing malls. I never sit at Lowes, or Home Depot, or Target, or Walmart. Too many families unloading huge carts of stuff. Too much action. I love parking in the smaller lots at local stores, like the Hurley Ridge Market, where after shopping I can sit in my car unobserved and eat sushi. I love the parking lot at Sunfrost especially in summer when my car is parked amongst potted plants and trays of flowers. I’d rather sit in the car than at a picnic table, or by the side of a stream. What’s that about?
Well, first of all I’m alone but not lonely. I’m part of this community. Everybody shops. We buy food and toilet paper and brown sugar and light bulbs. We buy tomatoes and fresh corn and smoked trout, when feeling flush. I’m part of this community but I don’t have to engage, nobody looks inside my car. I’m invisible, cozy and contained. And of course there’s always the reward for having completed an errand. It’s possible to eat an entire coconut custard pie with your bare hands.
“Have you addressed the moment when people see you and think you are pathetic?” my friend Chuck asks.
“I don’t give a shit,” I say.
“If it weren’t for that,” he says, “I’d live in a parking lot.”
I must remember to ask him why. Is it the comfort of remaining committed to being uncommitted? Because there you are, having been somewhere, not yet on your way to the next thing. It’s a pause. The pause does not get nearly enough credit. Suspended animation.
“I am a thinker,” says Chuck. “I sit there and think of what I should be thinking.”
“You only do that so you can not think,” I say and expect he will reply with you know me a little too well, back off, but instead he says, “You experience and I think. You use it to remember the past.”
Well, no. Mostly I am sitting in the present. Anything is possible, though, I might turn the car around and go to the Albany Airport and fly away to Fiji to look for an old boyfriend who moved there. But now I’m working too hard at this. Really, I sit in the stillness that precedes whatever comes next. (Usually it’s driving home.)
But I am remembering my first favorite parking lot, so I guess Chuck is right. It was at the end of road where my grandmother lived in Amagansett. Indian Wells Highway stopped abruptly at the Atlantic Ocean, and at lunchtime there were always working men in pickup trucks eating sandwiches and watching the water. I used to know the names of cars, back then. I could tell a Chevy from a Ford from a Buick (they looked like sharks). I knew what a Studebaker looked like and a Nash Rambler and a Thunderbird and a Mustang. This was back in the day when Schellinger’s Well Drilling was still on Main Street, along with The Three Sisters Tearoom (or was it Two?) and Topping’s, which had groceries, a lunch counter and a lot of comics. On hurricane days, my family drove to the beach, parked, and stared at the insanely huge waves, perfectly safe from wind and water in our car, but all of us struck dumb.
A kind and generous friend has sent me a mix tape. I only listen to music in my car; I can’t afford to let that kind of energy loose in my house, so I drive to the Comeau and park in the lot where dog walkers head off across the field toward the woods. There are lots of other cars, people greeting each other, dogs leaping, their tails wagging furiously. I take the CD out carefully and stick it in. The sound is jacked as high as it will go. This is my kind of music.
Twenty-one songs. Nobody notices when my little car begins to shake, nobody notices when I burst out laughing and sing at the top of what’s left of my lungs, nobody notices when I bang on the steering wheel, nobody notices when now and then I burst into tears.
I guess there are some parked cars we never leave. Here I sit, almost seventy-three years old, part of me back in the parking lot of the Amagansett Beach fifty seven years ago. The sun is down. My boyfriend and I are in his old Hudson, and the car is rocking a little, and I’m wondering if it is possible to die from so much pleasure.