the man in the window

An old man gets out of his car when I leave by the main entrance. I can tell something is wrong by the way he stands by the open car door looking uncertainly in my direction. It’s only then that I realise the parking spaces are numbered. I’m in his slot.
I put my bag down and go over.
‘I’m really sorry,’ I say to him. ‘I didn’t think.’
‘It’s okay,’ he says. ‘I know you’re doing your job.’
‘Where else can I park, though? There’s nothing out on the street…’
He turns and points with his car keys.
‘See that pub there? The one on the corner? Take that turning and follow the road down.’
‘To the cemetery?’
‘There is a cemetery, but the road keeps going. It brings you out behind the block. There are plenty of spaces there.’
‘I didn’t know. I’ll definitely use that next time.’
‘If you would.’
‘I’ll be out of your way in a second.’
I turn to go back to the car. A middle-aged man has opened in is window on the first floor, and he’s leaning out.
‘You bloody people! You get on my nerves!’ he shouts.
‘I’m sorry?’
‘Yeah! You’re sorry! You know perfectly well you’re not supposed to park there. These are private spaces, mate.’
‘I didn’t know that.’
‘Yes you did. You liar. I’ve seen you here before.’
He changes his position, tucking the net curtain more securely behind him. He’s a gnarly looking guy, bare-chested in a leather waistcoat, handlebar moustache, squint. In another life he could have been a comedy drunk in a short by Mack Sennett; for now, he’s a vigilante parking guy, shouting abuse.
‘That poor guy’s been out at work all day and now he’s had to wait an hour for you to move.’
I look at the old man. He smiles and shrugs his shoulders. He looks terribly sad, like this is just another unaccountable obstacle between him and home.
I turn back to the vigilante.
‘I’m a nurse!’ I say, a little pathetically. ‘I came here to look after someone who’s sick.’
The Vigilante sniffs and smoothes his tache.
‘Well, yes…’ he says. ‘You do a good job…’
But he obviously means that very generally, or only loosely, in principle, because the next moment he leans further out of the window and says: ‘Move your car, you arsehole. Don’t make me come down there.’
‘You can come down here if you like!’ I say, half-heartedly. Not because I don’t think I could handle him, but because I know how ridiculous the whole thing would look.
‘I’ve apologised to the man’ I say, trying to get control again. ‘I’ve found out where I should park in future. I think that’s fair enough. And I think you’re being incredibly unpleasant.’
The vigilante withdraws, slamming the window shut. For a moment I expect him to come rushing out, but nothing else happens. I go back over to the old man, who’s still standing there, holding his car key.
‘Sorry about that,’ I tell him.
‘That’s all right,’ he says. Then adds ‘I haven’t been at work.’
‘No?’
‘No. I’ve been visiting my ex-wife. She’s got dementia and she’s really struggling with it now.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
‘We kept in touch after the divorce. Just recently I’ve been going over there a bit more, doing what I can, but I don’t really know what to do.’
‘Are you getting much support?’
‘Everyone’s been really good. But I suppose there’s only so much you can do.’
I’m tempted to talk to him some more, to find out what help they’re getting. But he seems tired and I’m conscious of the other visits I have to make before I finish.
‘Well – all the best,’ I say. ‘It’s a good thing you’re doing.’
He shrugs.
‘I don’t know,’ he says.
‘And sorry about our friend there,’ I tell him, pulling a face and nodding up to the window on the first floor.
‘He’s not my friend,’ he says, then turns and gets back into his car, gently closing the door, ready to park up when I’ve gone.

2 thoughts on “the man in the window

  1. I got the impression he spent most of his day by the window, waiting to pounce. It’d make a great movie. Al Pacino is ‘The Window Vigilante’. (Contains mild peril and obscure sex references). Who’d play me? Probably Dustin Hoffman. (Slaps the car bonnet ‘I’m working here! I’m working here!)

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s