The Car

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An old man sat in his car.

His feet hurt and there was no one around.

He used to be my downstairs neighbor but he had shady roommates and things had clearly taken a turn for the worse.

The car has been in the parking lot of the grocery store for two weeks. It doesn’t run and he doesn’t run either. The bus stop for the shelter is too far and besides, he’s barefoot and doesn’t want to go anyway.

He was my downstairs neighbor and that was unfortunate for him because I live on the 4th floor and he can barely walk, or wear shoes, or stand up straighter than 45 degrees.

Lord knows why his kin put him in a 3rd floor apartment, maybe they hoped that once he was up there he wouldn’t be able to get back down.  I just hoped he didn’t set the building on fire because, for all of his shortcomings and ineptitudes, he was a master of chain smoking. Sitting on his balcony all god damed day, smoking one cigarette after another and blowing the smoke right in to my living room though notable, was not his most endearing quality.

Honestly, I had no warm fuzzies for the guy or his meth mouthed daughter and her crack head boyfriend. Xavier complained to the front office and called the police for various disturbances more times than I can count.

One time, at 6:30 on a Tuesday morning, all the 4th floor neighbors were awakened by the jangle of what sounded like my grandmother’s telephone and a wild pounding at the door. It turned out to be the fire alarm and the old man wielding a mag light.

Psychotic breaks are more entertaining when they happen after the sun comes up so, as you can imagine, the neighbors did not see the humor in a wild eyed lunatic tripping the fire alarm after sprinting up the stairs to escape the men with guns and knives that were not in his apartment trying to kill him.

Xavier called the police, again.

Then one day the old man and his entourage left. They left but their stuff didn’t and the maintenance crew had the best day ever gleefully tossing all their furniture off the 3rd floor balcony. It was glorious, I sat outside and watched.

From time to time the police would come looking for them. The car would reappear in different parts of the apartment complex. I don’t know where they went but they didn’t live downstairs anymore so I mostly forgot about them.

Two weeks ago Xavier and I found the car at the grocery store. It lay dead in the far corner of the parking lot, trash bags closed in the doors to keep the rain out and a note taped to the window.

I think now that I am idiot for not taking a picture of the note because it summed up the prevailing lack of forethought that is the defining characteristic of this whole situation.

The note was from the old man to meth mouth and crack head saying where he was staying and at what number he could be reached.  I don’t know how the recipients were supposed to know to find the car in the grocery store parking lot and, if he had access to a phone, why he didn’t just call them in the first place.  It occurs to me now that they are or were likely in jail and therefore not available to chat but if that is the case then what was the point of the note?

Xavier and I went to the store yesterday to pick up some sushi for lunch. The car was still there, sans the trash bags and the note, but this time the old man was sitting in it.

Apparently homeless and no doubt barefoot, he and his car were in a sad state of decline. Xavier called the police to speak with adult protective services. They came out but there wasn’t much they could do. The old man was having a moment of clarity and wanted to stay in the car and it was evidentially his prerogative to do so.

He told the officer that he was broke until his disability check came so maybe when the postman delivers it to the car he can go to a hotel.



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