The Tragic Race
They idle in the lot across Florida Avenue every night, once the sun slumbers beneath I-275. As I turn into my assigned parking spot their beams strobe in the peripheral of my left eye – always my left, I only know the route home from the city.
We don’t live in our city; it’s not the southern way. Cities like ours are reserved for sky-stacked buildings partially occupied by out-of-towners, businessmen with two families, and an assortment of fancy call girls for late night drinks. I won’t live in the city. I can’t know that anyone would, or can, even. The buildings downtown aren’t built for housing families. The walls are thin enough to hear keys click-clicking under fingertips, the windows come factory tinted to keep the sunshine out. No one who works downtown lives downtown; if they did then interstate construction wouldn’t require continued efforts ten years straight – there’d be no commuter lane.
They sit, subtle stutters from their engines, the rattle of coolant chemicals turned AC savior. There are usually five of them, sometimes just one, but there is always at least one. Backed into a half-paved half-brown grassy lot, stalled like racehorses at the starting gates. Once the call comes, the lights go on and they wail away, in the direction of the city, but not into it. No one in the city needs saving. The outlying boroughs, hatched homes and metal fences, ten people to a two bedroom – they would park there if it were safe, and save on gas.
I sit down on the curb, beat the end of my cigarette packet against the top of my knee and take two out. He’d be upset if he knew this was the one characteristic that lived on.
They come in pairs. Anytime I’ve looked the driver is always a woman. I heard it was something about women being more cautious in high-stress environments – that they were safer drivers. Statistics are meant for laughing at.
I see them waiting for a catastrophe: spousal abuse requiring stitches, a broken ankle, liters of blood loss, armed robbery, attempted suicide, you name it. To wait for tragedy must be an anxious shift to serve. It must desensitize while the thrill of saving lives revitalizes. But what could I know about angst I fold clothes six hours a day.
I have my second one for him. He was never proud of my choices but he’d enjoy this one. When I left home for college I didn’t worry about how they’d find him, or where our local paramedics sat waiting for someone to rescue. He was a loud man but he didn’t go that way. The only sound made was the crack of skull against porcelain toilet. They sit, waiting, each night, as if death only comes during the dark hours, but we don’t know when he went, three days later and time of death was irrelevant.
Amber is a writer of experimental forms, which is a writerly way of saying she likes to break rules and has successfully done so during her five years of higher education. She completed a coming-of-age novelette for her master’s creative dissertation project at Kingston University where she hopes they “get it”. After teaching first year undergraduates Amber committed to the long educational journey of becoming a professor. She currently lives in Tampa, Florida where she is applying to PhD programs. She is immersed in an array of Oxford Very Short Introductions and a much-delayed reading of The World According to Garp and Dante’s works. You can learn more about Amber and connect with her at ankoski.wordpress.com