Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Where is my mind?

"With your feet on the aerial, head in the clouds..."

It was supposed to be a 15-minute trip downtown. The new contract employer says I need to have a photo ID, and that I could come in today, go to the 26th floor, take a picture and leave. I drove around what felt like a few times in the parking garage, found a spot, and then did like I always do --- jumped out of the car, my mind already on the next 10 things I'd be doing today. I seemed to walk a long time until I even saw a sign that said "Elevator," with an arrow, and following it I started noticing all the cars parked in Reserved spots and wondered what kind of people owned them. Assholes? Smart people? Normal, broke people with two kids who figured out it was cheaper to get a monthly contract? I saw a motorcycle. I noticed how tight the ceiling was over a few of the Compact spots, parked in one of which was a sweet Mercedes. I saw a Mercedes on the road earlier today, I remembered.

I liked the way my shoes felt on the painted floor. So clean. Almost not like a garage at all. Like a showroom. What an evocative word, "showroom." I thought the Window Washing Station was a nice touch. I noted the echo-y silence and it reminded me of visits to my grandmother's building in the Bronx...

My Grandmother hated driving, so the '67 or '68 Beetle she kept in the garage, a clean well-kept space like this one smelling just vaguely of oil and rubber, had only 26,000 original miles on it and was factory-fresh except for the St. Anthony statue neatly adhered to the dashboard. My fucking aunt sold that car when she decided to move my Grandmother into a retirement home in South Carolina, just as she sold off heirlooms far more dear and characteristic to Grandmother Teresa than a car she never drove. The piano. The statuettes from Venice. The alabaster cup with the Greek people dancing around it. 60 or more years worth of Christmas ornaments! Jesus. I'm pretty sure that retirement home killed her, by the way. Bingo? Those genes my aunt shares with the other side of the family don't easily connect the brain and heart in those who inherit them.

Shit this is a long way to go. Coming up on the elevator now. That's a nice potted plant, and look, a bench. Like a hotel lobby.

After years of painfully learning the same lesson I've finally gained just a sliver of insight, a few seconds' worth, to remember how easily I get lost. So as I walked up to the elevator bank I started repeating to myself: when you return you will make a right out of the elevator, a RIGHT. I got into the elevator and pressed the "1" button and noticed briefly how quick the ride was. Walking out of the doors after they shushed open I saw a Bachman's Floral sign in a cardshop window and repeated: BACHMAN'S FLORAL. The elevator you use to get to the garage is right across from the Bachman's Floral sign.

Up to the 26th floor, nice view of downtown up there by the way, it's still novel working in the city. I'm playing grownup now. It took two minutes to get my picture taken and get out of there. I'm sure the picture looks terrible. No matter how hard I try to smile I just look mean. The woman taking the photo said, "Let's take just one more." She should talk. Nice green sweater. Down the elevator to the lobby and I started chanting again: look for the BACHMAN'S SIGN. I found it. Stepping into the elevator I repeated quietly to myself: When the doors open, you will step out and go RIGHT. As the doors shushed closed I looked at the columns of amber-lit buttons, 1, P1, P2, P3. Maybe you can see where this is going.

I drove for a while when I first got to the garage, I thought, so it must be P3...

Alzheimer's, fucking Alzheimer's! I'm hissing to myself after walking the whole way around all of P3, P2 and most of P1. I never get used to the panicky feeling. Yesterday I got lost trying to find my desk. Will that woman, the one who sits on the end of the row several rows down, the one who approved the budget for my contract, see me walking past her desk four times and have second thoughts? He must be crazy or stupid.

The panicky feeling. 15 minutes. I won't get paid for this job until June 10 so every dollar counts, and I reluctantly chose to use the garage over the meter because I planned to get out of there in 15 MINUTES and sometimes that only costs a few dollars vs. blasting through downtown cursing trying to find a meter and using up my cash to pay the babysitter.

The only consolation for having this empty sack of wet tissue for a brain is the feeling of relief I get when I find my car (or my keys, or my wallet, or my phone, or my desk, or my kid). Pulling up to the pay window the slightly um, mentally-deficient-seeming beanpole of a man in the Allied Parking windbreaker says "6 dollars."

"6 dollars? JESUS. I was barely here." Poor fellow. He probably hears that all the time. His hair is wavy and his glasses are thick and in fact, he looks sort of like Noam Chomsky would if he got addicted to huffing gas. A once-intelligent and now vacant-eyed shell of a husk of a person taking credit cards in a sunless tomb. I'm pretty smart, really. Am I looking at my future self? Should I start doing crossword puzzles and stop drinking Diet Coke?

The thought was disturbing as I rolled up the ramp out into the light of May and the recorded voice echoed "car approaching." It was a disturbing thought indeed. Good thing I already forgot it.


Pearl said...

Sou9nds like you were in my neck of the woods.

In more ways than one.

Delightfully written, Eric.


Elizabeth said...

I love this one babe. So good. So you.

Tom G. said...

This reminds me of one of those family circle cartoons where the dotted line shows the long circuitous path that Jeffy takes to put out the garbage.

Eric said...

Thank you, thank you, so much.

Anonymous said...

I'm feeling the pangs of agony that come along with me on trips similar to this.
Except when I ask myself where my mind is I can't seem to figure out the answer.