The sheriff’s deputy headed for the front door of the house. He was going to get a statement from them. The arrival of law enforcement had made it more than evident it was my time to exit and so I left opposite, towards the garage at the east end of the lawn. On the way to my car I walked next to the rear of a white mini-van sitting in the driveway and stopped. It looked so out-of-place there. Inside the locked doors and tinted windows it must have smelled like stale McDonald French fries, and sweaty kids’ sneakers, superficially masked by the perfume of an oppressive vanilla air freshener.
A burning sensation began to spread upwards from my fingertips. How could I not think of it as my parking spot? It had been my spot for more than 5 years, even though my sedan was now parked on the street nearby. Another few steps nearer and I was just inches away from this bulky soccer-mom van; the thing that brought her into my life; into my home; and now, sat heavy and stoic in my goddamned driveway. With car keys grasped firmly in my tingling hand, the silvery tip of a key reflected cleanly against a white glossy finish. I held it there, almost touching; imagining my hand making a graceful circular motion etched deeply in paint.
“I could leave them a message,” I thought quickly. The mere idea brought an unexpected jolt excitement. “Oh, how about a curse word—fuck!” Maybe “fuck.” It felt really good.
I pictured the word “fuck” sloppily carved above the tail gate. “Bitch,” quickly flashed into my head but was shaken off before my mind had time to entertain the thought. I was angry, insulted, but short of feeling vindictive. My arm felt its own weight and dropped to my side as I turned to walk to my driver door. I knew I was defeated and it was at these times I needed dignity the most.
From the yard across street came a woman’s voice. Like an approaching train, the sound escalated rapidly in range and volume.
“Did you key that car?” she said. Her tone was full yet slightly forced in an attempt at sounding authoritative.
“No, I didn’t,” I replied. My own voice had to be drawn out of me and it fell flat like a languishing wind.
“Did you scratch that car?” she repeated, still a little louder. The woman was stout. She had short blonde hair and was wearing causal yet motherly jeans and a dark sweatshirt.
“No, I didn’t do anything,” I stopped short of my car door and waited to indicate my willingness to remain present during her informal inquiry. “Go ahead! Take a look.” I gestured towards the van. “There’s not a mark on it.”
“I saw you standing by that car and looking around,” she said. She was now standing in my ex’s driveway and gave a small section of the van a good glance-over. “I don’t know who lives here but I didn’t want anybody’s car to be keyed.” Now she approached me, a little more relaxed but cautious.
“I understand. Thank you,” I said earnestly. “I was considering it. I really was. But I changed my mind.”
“Well good,” she said. Her tone now reset to congenial. “You can get into trouble for that. I don’t want to see you to go to jail.”
I thanked her again for her consideration, affirmed that her actions were noble and that she was indeed a model neighbor.
How many times have I almost done what is unarguably the wrong thing to do? Thousands, I would imagine. Time and time again, a few seconds of fantasy have satisfied the angry itch without any of the guilt or consequence of the real thing. With at least one crisis averted for the day, I got into my car, flipped a “U” and headed south towards Bakersfield.