It was shortly after seven in the morning. I pulled into the parking garage near work, backed into a space near the exit, rolled my window down all the way and shut the car off. I took a puff of my cigar and a sip of my hot chocolate and leaned back in the seat. My body was still stiff and annoyed that I had the gall to actually get up out of bed and begin moving. My joints ached and creaked in protest with each slight motion I made.
I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the headrest and tried to ignore my abused system. In my ears the sounds of a podcast and its host filled my mind with visions of traveling to mars and alternately, escaping from mars. I wondered if the slightly less than earth gravity of that planet would help relieve the pain in my system.
The sound of the garages electronic gate buzzing open and the revving of an engine peaked my curiosity and I opened my eyes. I watched the small car pull into the parking space next to me and a Coast Guard sailor get out. He nodded at me when he saw me. I nodded back. Then he walked away. I closed my eyes again.
On the podcast the host was asking someone how he came to write a story about being stranded on Mars and the science he researched for his story. I missed the next part because the gate buzzed again and I watched another car come into the garage. This one however; drove up the ramp and out of my sight. Then the gate buzzed again.
I tried to ignore the buzzing and the constant traffic but soon I found myself watching the comings and goings of early morning workers. I don’t normally get to do this. Normally I’m at work not long after six a.m. The garage is quiet then. A handful of cars and trucks fill the structure and the only thing you see are your shadows dancing in the flickering lights against concrete.
In my ears, the writer of the story talks about how it took him three years to write his book, post it online chapter by chapter and that he never really talked to experts, he just googled all the information he needed. He went on to say he eventually self published the story in electronic format and then in print. Soon, Hollywood called him and bought the option to make it into a movie. This part of the podcast had my interest peaked. After all, I’m always interested in what writers say about their process, how they write and the effects of getting a movie made of your hard work.
I took a sip of my cocoa. I look out my windshield. An unmarked police cruiser is parked in front of me. The officer behind the wheel is looking at me. I nod at him. He nods at me. I nod at him again and take a puff of my cigar. He leaves.
I shake my head and try to concentrate on the words filling my ears. I have a hard time doing so. My neck is stiff and my right arm screams in pain every time I try to lift my travel mug. I stretch my legs and consider going home, downing a bunch of asprin and going back to bed. I quickly push that thought out of my head.
I’m in a surly mood and I need rest but I know that if I do go home the only thing I’ll accomplish is mentally abusing myself for not going in to work. I check the time. Almost 7:20. I decide I should grab my laptop, snuff out my cigar and head in to work.
But I can’t.
The cop is back.
This time, his window is down and I see him talking on his radio as he looks at my front license plate. He catches me looking at him through the haze of cigar smoke and he cocks his head slightly to the side. I give him an upward nod.
“You work around here?” his young voice asks from his open window.
A thousand smart ass answers flood my brain. I don’t say anything. I just slowly remove my earbuds and mimic him in cocking my head.
“I said, “Do you work around here?””
“Children’s Museum.” I answer and as if to punctuate my disdain for being interrupted by him I take an unneeded puff of my cigar and fill the cabin of my car with smoke.
“We got a concerned citizens complaint about you.” He says without me even ask.
“Imagine that.” Is all I could say.
He picks up his microphone, talks into it and then says “Have a nice day.” And drives off.
I shake my head and watch his tail lights disappear out of the gate. I look in the rearview mirror and I see my eyes. Hazel green, tired and surrounded by greyish black circles. They are the eyes of Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars.
I lower the sun visor and open up the vanity mirror and look at my face.
Four days’ worth of stubble are on my cheeks, my hair is coarse and wild, my mouth is in the shape of an upside down wedge of lemon and by the sallowness of my skin, it’s easy to guess I’ve not spent any time in the sun in decades. All of this framed by a black, leather motorcycle jacket. I don’t recognize the homicidal maniac staring back at me.
I’d venture to say that if I saw myself walking down the street towards me, I’d cross the street just to avoid any incident.
Then I smile my crooked toothy smile. My goatee frames my teeth. But the smile doesn’t really reach my eyes. I frighten myself. A madman wrapped in leather and hair with a cloud of smoke for a halo.
I shake the thoughts from my head, roll up my window, grab my bag and head in to work.
I tried all day to not think about the vision of me through someone else’s eyes. I couldn’t do it. However; I do know this one important fact…
I’m not getting a haircut.