Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

April 19, 2011
I parked my car in the middle of the lot and turned the radio on. Jack Johnson began to croon my favorite song: “Lord knows that this world is cruel, and I ain't the Lord, no I'm just a fool.” I blasted the heat and put my seat back a little bit since I knew that I would have to sit for a while waiting for my brother to text me and let me know where I would pick him up with his goofy friends. I got tired of hearing my friends complain about college, boys, and menstrual cycles, so I left Melanie’s house much earlier than I had originally planned. I was too tired to check in with my brother again; he would be ready when he was ready. I looked out the window at the building across the way. The first letter of “United Healthcare” was tilted ever-so-slightly to the left, away from the rest of the illuminated letters on the front of the building. It pointed toward the spot where the logo probably hung a year or two ago; although I decided that the empty space gave the building a rather awkward look, I couldn’t bring myself to look away from it.

I’d seen the building a hundred times. The way the artificial light of passing cars reflected off the ugly letters was not new to me. I’d driven by this part of Village Crossing countless occasions—when my mom used to drop me off to see a movie with my other 14-year-old friends, when I could finally drive myself and my friends to Ulta, and just a few days ago when I met my boyfriend for lunch. I had taken the same route, passed by the same building, and ignored the details plenty.
There was something perfectly hideous about it though, that night at 11:03 PM, while I was waiting to pick up my brother from the movie theater. Mother Nature could not make up her mind and inconsistently blew in wispy snowflakes that were only visible in headlights or directly under the tall parking lot lights. The letters of the United Healthcare building were cruel reminders of the darkness of the night and, oddly, the iciness of the air outside the warmth of my car. I had never actually noticed that the letters were precariously hanging off the building—fully attached to the cement but slanted with age. The way the wind occasionally whistled outside the car and gently pushed the glowing “U” side to side was soothing. It had never been so comforting to see an aesthetic element in something that I generally thought of as utilitarian.
I looked up again at the snowflakes falling under the light, each one reminding me of the winters I spent meandering around the complex with inadequate clothing and each time thinking, “Mom was right about the need to wear thicker gloves.” There was a group of girls across the empty parking lot—they couldn’t have been older than fourteen or fifteen-- walking outside of Barnes and Noble, their rosy cheeks glowing from the phones that they held so close to their faces (or maybe it was their carefree laughter that made them look so radiant). Their too-fuzzy scarves were most likely purchased from Claire’s for $12.99 and were by no means warm enough for the freezing winter. The girls walked under the awning of the building and did not even look up at the letters. They kept walking, huddled together, much like I did when I was fourteen.
That was before, of course, I made the decision to go far away for college, before I came to terms with the way my body shuts down when I don’t get enough sleep, before I realized my extremely obnoxious tendency to criticize other people’s clothing choices. It was before I learned I could use my words to hurt someone, before I learned I could use my words to make someone feel so good, and before I realized I could convince myself of just about anything. I didn’t know, then, that I would not quite get over my fear of elevators or that I would see my dad cry for the first time when I was sixteen and then three more times in just a four-month span. I walked around, mindlessly laughing with friends, without the knowledge of world wars, causes of poverty, or eugenics. I also didn’t know my favorite song would remain the same for many years to come.
I heard my phone vibrate multiple times and saw the 4 texts from my brother. But I watched the snow, the ugly lights, and the lovely girls. I was sitting, waiting, and wishing I didn’t have to learn anything else for just a few more minutes.

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