w4m-19 (Front Street Parking Ramp)

Ur this old dude—maybe 40 . . . 45? Wearing a gray suit and one of those Sunday white button downs, but no tie. Ur collar was un-buttoned and u were sweating. This isn’t enough prolly. Bald (i think—on top, light brown on the sides). 6’1”. Bony (sorry). Maybe just skinny. U looked lost. Like u couldn’t remember where u parked. What floor. What row. U were walking up the aisle carrying a computerbag. And this look on ur face. i don’t know. Maybe scared. Late. Hurry. i wanted to help, but didn’t know how. If u see this, shout my way. i know it’s a long shot . . . Hope u found ur car or whatever u were looking for.

w4m-19 (Biggby Coffee, Plainfield)

Again! Ur like everywhere. This time in the Plainfield Biggby on Wednesday. U drank a double mocha w/ two vanilla squirts, i know because i was behind u in line and i heard ur order. U got a voice like wind going through leaves. soft and whispery. U took ur mug and sat at one of those tables for two along the wall and outta ur computerbag u pulled this newspaper folded neat and u unfolded it neat and laid the big sections so they hung half off the table. i got my drink and passed real near u, but u didn’t look up. i couldn’t see what paper u were reading, but it looked smart. U didn’t look lost like before, but this time u looked like u didn’t belong in that room with all those moms in visors and all the kids with their Nintendo DSes. U weren’t there with those people coffee-cup-gesturing or the bible study freaks. U weren’t even in ur newspaper, wherever it was trying to take u—Kim Jong-Il’s funeral or the Arab Spring or whatever. i could see u were someplace with just u . . . or maybe. . . i don’t know. i saw the chair across from u empty and thought about sitting down to see if u would come back for me from wherever u were. But then i thought i might not want to bring u back from there. maybe u’d be mad or angry or upset. i thought maybe u liked being where u were and i liked the thought of u liking where u were, so i left the chair empty and sat looking out the big front window at all the cars stopped at the light on Plainfield. i thought u were maybe like those cars—stopped . . . and waiting . . . and i know this doesn’t make sense, but i could see wherever u were was like that. Someplace where just u were waiting for the light to change, and this lights a long one. i get that. Sometimes i’m waiting too.

w4m-19 (1759 Oak St.)

Today i didn’t see u, not when i went to the D&W for Double-Os or the Blockbuster or even to walk around under the big Calder by the county building downtown. La Grande Vitesse. Its a thing my mom and me did. i do it myself now. She used to drive down and we’d park right on Lyon street illegally and we’d get out and run around the statue. i think she liked to do that because it was next to the courthouse and she liked to park with just her flashers on to warn the other cars she wasn’t moving and traffic would pile up behind her and there’d be all these cops coming and going from the courthouse, but they all had prisoners with them or families to get back to so none of them ever stopped to give her a ticket. i liked to imagine what the people in those cars behind my mom’s were seeing—me and her running around this huge orange statue all full of open space and waves, screaming like banshees. i used to think those people were stuck there, blocked in by mom’s car and the traffic going past in the next lane, and they were seeing us, stuck there too, moving in circles, chasing ourselves. After a while i’d get so tired and dizzy i’d fall over. Pigeons on the plaza would flap a few feet back, then inch forward, then flap back again whenever i moved. i just wonder if u know what that’s like—to run like crazy toward someone u love. That first day i saw u, i thought maybe that’s what u were looking for. Now mom’s gone and i get crazy sometimes. In the parking garage that day i confess, i thought u were running toward me. i know u weren’t, but still.

Mark Derks’ stories have appeared in or are forthcoming from two Rogue Planet Press anthologies, District, and Smokelong Quarterly. He spent most of his life within an hour of Lake Michigan, but currently resides with his wife on the Connecticut shoreline, where he edits the fiction section for the journal Vinyl Poetry. You can find him online at www.markderks.wordpress.com.