In this town the person I wonder about most often is a parking enforcement officer. No one has ever been better suited for a line of work than this man is to his. He is the Platonic ideal of a parking enforcement officer. He has let his hair grow out so that it creeps, blond and greased, from beneath his sun hat and hangs just above his shoulders. He wears dark wraparound sunglasses and walks with heavy, bounding steps, hunched slightly forward. I spoke to him once, on my birthday, as he was issuing me a ticket. It’s my birthday! I called to him, running out from the coffee shop, seeing him issuing the ticket, me ten minutes past the meter. I’m ten minutes past, I said, catching up with him. It’s my birthday and I’m ten minutes past. Eight, he said. Eight minutes past. Even better, I said. Not really, he said. On my birthday? I said. Really? Really, he said. I stood looking at him while he made out the ticket. Happy birthday, he said, and went on to the next meter.
Sometimes when I am trying to sleep I wonder about him. I cannot imagine him without the glasses and sun hat, so I imagine him with them, in bed, shirtless. Maybe he is not sleeping alone. Just because I wouldn’t love him doesn’t mean someone doesn’t. The world is full of people I couldn’t love, loved by other people. I think about this often, looking out over cities and towns and into cars. What are they doing without me?
I wouldn’t ever want to be in bed with the parking enforcement officer. I don’t really even want to see him around town. But I do see him. And I can’t really help myself, can’t really keep myself, when I do, from imagining him sitting at a table with a cat and a big bowl of tuna between them, helping themselves, and me sitting up on the counter, watching and wanting to be included.
nini berndt holds an M.F.A. in fiction from the University of Florida. Her work has appeared in Passages North, Adroit, Blackbird, PANK, and others. She lives and writes in Denver.