I thought you were sleeping. It seems silly now, but you must understand, when one sees a person slumped over inside a parked car, the most reasonable conclusion is rarely that the person slumped over is dead. It was the lights from the dashboard that caught my eye. If it weren’t for the lights, I would have missed you completely, and – who knows? – you may still be lying out there, unknowing of the legions of addicts drawn to the verifiable Mecca of caffeine. You’d remain oblivious to the following day’s massive local windstorm and the city’s collective anxiety, followed by elation, when our beloved Seahawks won the big game. You might still be slumped awkwardly over your console, and I suppose your car would be run dry of gas by then, but folks would not be any more observant.
I say it was the lights on your dashboard that caught my eye, and that’s true, but the lights had nothing to do with what kept my interest. Sitting in my comfortable spot inside the caffeine Mecca, I split my time between polishing words and eyeing your little red car with its dash lights illuminated and the subtle wisps of exhaust wafting in the cool morning.
That’s an awful long nap she’s taking.
This is what I kept thinking.
Maybe something’s wrong. I’d better check on her.
I didn’t move, because I had work to do.
Nah, she’s only sleeping. I’ll feel stupid if I go knocking on her window, and I interrupt a perfectly good nap. But, maybe I’ll be doing her a favor. Maybe, she’s taking too long of a nap, and she’s going to be late for work. She’d appreciate it if I saved her from being late to work. She might even be cute. That’s it! She’s a cute, sleeping girl, and she’ll be so appreciative of me waking her, that she’ll offer me her undying love – (in response, I will point out the ring tattooed on my left hand, of course). That settles it. I’m going to wake the cute, sleeping girl. As soon as I finish my chai tea and apple cake.
There is something about having a lot of people around that bothers me. When a person gets around a lot of other people, he has a tendency to do what he sees the others doing. That was the struggle; I vamped inside the coffee shop, watching your little red car – watching it not moving – the car beside it leaving, replaced by another, leaving, replaced by another, leaving.
Nobody is knocking on her window. How can I knock on her window, when it’s been firmly established by dozens of people, that we are NOT knocking on that window today? This whole knocking on the window idea is clearly insane! NOBODY is knocking on that damn window!
You don’t know this, because I never got a chance to tell you, but I decided before walking from the coffee shop that I was indeed going to knock on your window. I knew as I walked out the twin glass doors that – even should I chicken out, jump in my grimy SUV, and drive off – before I reached the exit of the parking lot, I would glance once more in the rear-view mirror and see your car, still sitting there, and I would wheel around, drive back, and do that thing that no rational person should do. I skipped all the leaving and coming back, and instead, went and knocked on your window.
As I did this, I knew you were not sleeping. Nobody sleeps in a position like the one you were in. I knocked louder, on the off-chance you were a really sound sleeper who enjoys snoozing in cockeyed positions. Still nothing. I passed over to the driver’s side, lifted a hand to knock.
Oh shit! Oh shit! OH SHIT!
It wasn’t the purple, spectral color along the lines of your outstretched hand, nor along your awkwardly jutting chin. It was your eyes. There’s something that happens to a person’s eyes when they die. I never knew this before I discovered you, but now I know. The eyes – they grow absent. That is to say, the material part of the eye remains, but the other part – the eyes within the eyes – that part goes away. That was you. You were gone away.
So you know, I’ve searched for you.
“Woman found dead in car” – I found a lot those when I googled the phrase, but none of them was you.
“Woman found dead outside Starbucks” – Turns out you’re not the first of those, either. I couldn’t locate your needle in that haystack. So many haystacks, and even more needles; I guess most of them are bound to be ignored by the Google bots. But your particular needle pricked me where it hurts, so I can’t ignore you as I tend to ignore the rest.
Perhaps this will change things. Perhaps, by writing this, I am putting a magnifier on your needle, drawing some small attention to our little haystack. You’re worth more than this, of course you are, but I can only do what my limited capabilities allow me to do. If I perform you a disservice with this crappy obituary, please forgive me, but here is what I can say, based on what I observed of you:
She loved to laugh. She was fun to be around, but she knew when to be serious.
You could count on her. She was usually early and always prepared for what needed to be done.
She was smart.
She enjoyed books, but struggled with finding enough time to read them.
She loved children.
She did not indulge in shallow relationships; therefore, her circle of friends was small, but close.
She was beautiful.
Her heart was big – some might say too big – because things bothered her, but they were the sorts of things that ought to bother a person, like injustice, over-consumption, or violence against the meek.
She was strong.
She will be missed, whoever she was.