The world walked right up my driveway, opened my unlocked car door, sat down behind the wheel and had a smoke. He settled in, rifled through the glove compartment, popped the trunk. He took the quarters in the console and a pair of sunglasses, but not the phone charger. The dog must have been barking like crazy – she goes nuts over a falling leaf – but he took his time, finished his cigarette. I found the ground out butt on the floor of the car a few days later.
I can’t stop thinking about this stranger in my car. The scene unfolds in my head as I piece together the details, both real and made up, until it’s as if I witnessed the whole thing myself. I imagine it was a man, a young man. Waiting, watching for us to leave, he strode up to the car, opened the door and slid right in. He was nervous, but only a little because he’d done this before. He searched for a garage door opener, but found nothing, noticed the alarm stickers all over the windows and thought better of trying the door to the house. The $4 worth of quarters wouldn’t get him far, but at least he wouldn’t leave empty handed. Smoking the cigarette calmed him.
Almost a week later, the story I’ve made up has become a memory that haunts me.
When this stranger crossed the line from his world into mine, he stepped right into my shiny, lovely, safe bubble of a life. The fences, the alarm, the barking dog; the private school, piano lessons, the soccer team; the Uggs, the fancy party dresses, the fresh organic food – this is a life of pretty and privilege. A not so good day is when a favorite t-shirt goes missing, the dog barfs on the carpet or the three-year-old pulls the 10-year-old’s hair. We do not talk about the terrible and horrifying – soldiers burned alive, children fighting wars, mothers who cannot feed their starving babies. We turn our three girls towards love and light and hope for grace, shielding them from the worst.
We do not tell them about the stranger walking up the driveway and sitting in our car. I think this brush with the world’s empty pockets and ill will, desperation and darkness would be the scariest news of all. They do not understand why anyone would want or need to violate our space and property. For me it’s more unsettling than scary: the unknown world has come to us here in our bubble wanting what we have.
I look out of my bedroom window across the front yard. The plum trees are starting to bloom, the delicate pale pink petals popping up along the slender branches. It’s only the beginning of February, too early I think for the plum trees to bloom. This too is unsettling, but because it’s beautiful, we don’t flinch.
This is the world, horrible and gorgeous and it’s not for us to control. A stranger will open my unlocked car door and sit in the driver’s seat for as long as it takes to finish a cigarette – maybe longer. Trees will bloom too early in the season. Rain will flood the dry hills, washing out the roads. Guns will go off a few miles away. I know it’s happening somewhere out there, but I am here in my bubble, holding my three girls close, letting them cry over spilt milk and burnt toast, wondering if I have time to go to the gym before meeting a friend for lunch.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s sentence is “The memory that haunts me is…”