I was amazed by your minimal efforts to find something of value. We have that in common, I suppose.
There was an old iPhone in the middle console of the car that you didn’t search. There was a pair of shoes underneath the driver’s seat, which you would have found if you dug around the backseat. There were several jackets, air fresheners for your car, and coat hangers piled up on the seats.
You didn’t bother with those things.
What was it about it the black travel bag that caught your eye? Did you think it was a purse? I couldn’t imagine that. The long strap made it look more like a backpack than a purse. Did you just see a medium sized bag and assume there was something of value in there?
I know what it feels like to be wrong. You walked away with nothing of value.
I didn’t imagine you’d run. You broke into my car in parking lot of a mall in the middle of a bustling Sunday afternoon; you weren’t afraid. You probably felt accomplished, and, for that, I couldn’t blame you. I wouldn’t have had the audacity to attempt the great heist – not like you.
When you got back to your car or dark alley or wherever you were headed, we became like-minded in our disappointment – again. I was disappointed when I found the hole in the passenger window. All the time – all the money that I was going to have to invest in fixing your mistake.
Then there was your disappointment when you unzipped the travel bag and found the leftovers of my life: Duct tape, some old work gloves, and a bag of half eaten mints.
It didn’t occur to me until after the bag was stolen how strange that specific combination of items was to the untrained eye. The old pair of work gloves went hand-and-hand with the duct tape. There was a small split in a piece of plastic underneath my front bumper that rubbed against the tire and made a noise that sounded like the bolts were coming out of the car and death was certain. I’d put the work gloves on, kneel on the ground, and take the duct tape to the plastic.
It was my temporary fix that became a permanent one. The mints ended up there by happenstance. The bag was just a convenient vessel for necessary trash. You didn’t know any of that when you opened up the bag. To you, it was just a bag full of unnecessary trash.
Did you keep the bag? Did you take a mint to your mouth and slide the duct tape into the back pocket of your jeans and feel accomplished that even though there was nothing of value inside of the bag that there was value in the act of getting to the insides of the bag?
As I vacuumed out the shards of glass from my car later that night, I knew that we both deserved better than just picking up the pieces of our lives. Once the car was clean, I thought maybe you’d know it too.
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You can find Mathew Serback’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction in The Collapsar, Juked, Literary Orphans, and many other terrific publications.
Photo: Austin Chan