Parking meters, still the soldiers of urban islands, guarding identical squares of oil spotted cement for timeshare. I hate them except when they’re broken. Then they make my day. Shouldn’t a small concrete rectangle with no view be free like the air we breathe?
I shove in my quarters and instantly feel hurried. I never think Put in a few extra so you can take your time. People without urgency find other ways. Instead I think of Lovely Rita the meter maid with her little white book and military cap who could leave an envelope on my windshield if I’m late, though, she must be into her eighties by now.
It’s the urban drivers’ ritual, not to be erased by new LCD screens, modern credit card modules, or phone app capacity. It’s still Rita who gives the final nod.
She stands outside the restaurant with friends. A banner across her flawless shoulder says Happy 18 th Birthday in gold letters, high-heeled sandals laced around muscled calves, cream colored dress accentuating tanned skin.
She glances toward the window which casts back an image that makes her suck in a breath and press on her stomach, a tiny frown concealed by her mask.
She lifts her chin, pushes dark shoulder-length hair from her partly covered face. No lipstick for her mask to smear. She’ll put it on later, for anyone to see, after they order and sit down outside.
For now, the half faces of celebrants mingled with distance, affectionate expressions at the corners of mouths lost in the in and out undulations of pale blue fabric must suffice.
Marianne Brems is a writer of textbooks and poetry. Finishing Line Press will release her chapbook Sliver of Change in 2020. Her poems have appeared in literary journals including The Pangolin Review, La Scrittrice, The Sunlight Press, and The Tiny Seed Literary Journal. She lives in Northern California. Website: www.mariannebrems.com.