“Give me your car keys.”
“What makes you think I have a car?”
“You’re walking in a parking lot full of cars.”
“So are you.”
Pause. “Yes. I need your car.”
“Why do you think I have a car?” She’s walking fast. He’s puffing to keep up. He’s not young. Neither is she, but she is still a step ahead, even with his hand on her left arm, like a tentative effort at affection or connection.
“Do you have a car?”
“I have owned cars,” she says.
“Now!” He’s shouting. “Do you have a car now in this parking lot?”
She laughs. “Do you like riddles? Asking them or answering them?” They’re still walking, fast, together, diagonally across the mall parking lot towards the lot exit.
“I’m getting tired of this.” He’s shouting louder now. His grip on her arm tightens.
She laughs again. “You’re getting tired! Think how I feel. Already late for work and now this.”
“You’re going to work?”
“Where did you think I was going?”
“Home. You look like a lady going home.”
“I wish,” she says. They’re still walking, nearly at the road, close to the intersection. “I’m late and still have to change.”
“My uniform.” Twenty feet from the corner, his hand a vise on her arm, but moving half a step behind her. She can smell his breath. No alcohol, but something else, not tobacco. Drugs? She decides not to think about that.
“What kind of uniform? You a waitress?”
“Waitresses don’t wear uniforms these days.” The light is red. They stop. He’s breathing heavily. She’s holding her breath, wonders if he can feel her pulse under his grip. She flashes on her Prius they just passed. The light changes.
“Let’s go,” she says, and they cross the street together, his arm now linked in hers, pressing hard. Still she knows they look like a mismatched couple. She hasn’t looked at his face yet, doesn’t want to see his eyes, glances at his chin—as nervous as she is—not that young which she had already guessed by the tremor in his voice.
“Shit,” he says. “You don’t have a car.” The hospital looms ahead of them, all eight floors. “What do you do? You clean?”
She nods. “The average person wouldn’t believe what’s involved.”
“Shit,” he says again. “You don’t have a car.”
“Never said I did.” His hand on her arm slackens. He’s still breathing heavily, but his voice has changed. She stops abruptly, faces him full on. He’s better looking than she would have guessed, square jaw, blue eyes—dilated—needs a shave, matted hair, missing a bottom molar, forty plus, scrap of scarf at his neck. She smiles, slips out of his grasp by taking a step away from him. “Been nice talking to you,” she says and turns to go, both of them aware that he won’t stop her. “Really nice,” she says again.
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“I know,” she shouts back, but she is already hurrying up the drive to the Physician’s Only entrance. She is late for rounds and won’t have time to call the police.
©2012 Kathleen Coskran