Driving home from work, Evelyn wonders what would happen if her airbag released, should she be in an accident. Would it vacuum itself back into place like a video playing in reverse? Would she have to put it back in herself? What if she didn’t put it back in right? Wouldn’t putting it back sound the horn? Should she drive into the country, with the steering wheel’s guts resting on her girth, as not to disturb the neighbors with her honking as she put the airbag back where it belongs? Or would she take it into a mechanic? But what if she got in another accident on the way to the mechanic? There would be no airbag to protect her in said accident. What if she were to die in the first accident? Maybe she wouldn’t have to mess with the airbag at all. Maybe the airbag, itself, would do her in. She did sit far too close to the steering wheel, even though she wasn’t really that short and her legs were rather constricted while she drove. But she felt too far away when she was a comfortable distance from her steering wheel.
Evelyn’s car has a dented passenger door from a sideswipe that she never took care of. A sideswipe she didn’t confess to. As she is about to pull into her driveway, her eye is caught by the weekly garbage truck that heaves her neighbors’ trash can into its bulky body. She parks in the street, tosses open her grey can, starts chucking the nonsense she meant to empty before today out of her forest green Ford Taurus and into the can. McDonald’s sacks. An empty Kleenex box. Ginger-tipped Q-Tips.
As the truck approaches, she finishes, pulls into her driveway, and leans her seat back so the collectors can’t see her for the car hoarder she is. Like a child who covers their eyes and thinks no one else can see them. The mechanical arm raises the open can, dumps it, sets it back in place, and moves on. Evelyn’s pale pink cotton shirt sticks to her mole-trodden, sun-spotted body. She wipes the perspiration from her lined forehead, into her short, graying hair, and onto her too blue blue jeans with the fake out pockets and the amplified elastic waistband.
Evelyn didn’t have the patience for zippers anymore. Half the time, the zipper would be just out of reach, tucked, hiding from her. When she forgot to do laundry and was left pantyless, the zipper once got jammed on her salt and pepper pubic hair. Evelyn had to scissor herself free. She pushed the jeans into the overflowing trash can under the sink and growled, “Fuck it.” She wore pajama pants to her nearby superstore, bought new zipperless jeans, and donated her old ones to the Salvation Army, even though they hated gay people like her. Goodwill was too far of a drive.
Evelyn exits her car. She goes inside to retrieve the overflowing trash bag she forgot to take out. She had put another wax melt cube into her Scentsy burner because the one that was in there had lost its mojo. There it dripped onto her rental house’s oatmeal-tinted carpet, left on overnight.
“Shit.” She runs, tripping over her own feet, looking like she’s trying to get into a lunge position for the first time. She shuts off the wax burner and goes for a grocery sack and some oven mitts. Evelyn’s have owls on them because she wants to be quirky. The owls have been charred a few times too many and have rust and ebony marks all over.
Evelyn had only meant to go out to fetch a Redbox movie from the parking lot of her local Safeway, but when she pulled up, this older man was walking up at the same time and insisted, “No, I insist. You go first.” She had wanted to borrow Carol again. What if this guy looked over her shoulder? What if he was attracted to her and that’s why he let her go first? What if he was a Republican? What if he got angry? She didn’t know him. Evelyn tried on a tight, teeth-baring smile and inhaled her nerves through her diastema and other tiny oral spaces.
Transaction uncompleted, Evelyn scurried to her car. She didn’t look back to see if his facial expression read confused or amused or however else she might have affected him. If she had affected him. She locked her door and bit her lip as she reversed, then sped forward. She pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street, almost getting T-boned by a car, whose headlights weren’t turned on, despite it being nearly 9 PM. She hit the brakes, stopping perpendicular to the lane she should be in. The car honked, driving up onto the sidewalk to pass her. Her jaw clenched and her body vibrated with anxiety. She didn’t want to go home. She drove to the school where she worked as a business manager and parked in her usual parking spot. No one else was in the lot and that comforted her. She was always overwhelmed by the swarming congestion of it all.
She twisted her keys out of the ignition and wanted a break. A break from her repetitive evening monotony. A break from her debilitating loneliness. A break from her apprehensions that consumed her. A city bus pulled around the corner, entering stage left in her plane of vision. Her body moved for her, telling her what to do, before she knew. A handful of people got off, as she walked up. She ascended the steps and entered coins. No one else was left on the bus.
She couldn’t fathom the complexity of humans coexisting unless it was passing her by. Slides on a projector. Boys grabbing butts. Teen girls cracking up, as they walked down the street. A homeless couple and their small child. An old man pushing a stroller with a Pomeranian inside. A woman in a motorized wheelchair close behind him. Someone entering a convenience store. A car pulling into their driveway. A wayward youth scrolling on an iPhone. A curbside-sitter listening to music. An oceanic pulse of leaves and tango and blue and red flashing lights. A choreographed existence, being constantly toyed with—rewritten. Hazy mirrored doubled back reflections. A second bus, headed the opposite direction, too close. Brief eye contact with a woman who looked like the woman she loved. What she might have looked like, if she could have still known her.
“Last stop,” the bus driver bellowed, as they slowed to a halt for the final time.
She got off and walked for two hours back to her car. She slept, with the seat reclined, setting the alarm on her cell phone for five minutes before other employees would begin arriving. She always liked to be the first to arrive. Evelyn goes into work. She has a normal day. Afterward, she drives home. She takes out the trash.