They lived on the 23rd floor, the old man and her. The pair of them had been there for years and now couldn’t afford to move, even though they both hated it so much. It had been fine when they were in their forties, fifties even. But now she was past seventy, and he was coming up to his seventy-fourth birthday. And so poor he still had to work each day.
The building was as good as it ever was, the Hong Kong owners saw to that. The paint was always new, the carpets were replaced, the appliances worked. Even the elevator never broke down. But now the building was full of young people; young people with cars who always took the parking spaces down below and left no space for him.
Every night at six she stood on her balcony and watched him come home from work in their ancient brown Ford. Every night he would slowly cruise the parking lot, and every night the parking lot would be full, and every night he would drive out of the lot and seek a space further down the hill towards the river. Every night, as she watched him puff and wheeze his way back up the slope, she could feel his frustration, his anger, and the pain in his chest.
She looked at the clock on the kitchen wall. Five fifty-eight. Drying her hands on the worn dish towel, she walked out onto the balcony. It was a warm evening, and she could feel the first stirrings of spring, and see the nascent blossoms on the trees below. Her eyes moved from tree to tree to … a space! She could see an empty parking space right in front of the building immediately below her. Her heart skipped a beat. She looked up at the entrance to the lot, and there was the brown Ford just pulling in. She couldn’t believe it. At last! At last!
A honking horn made her look down to her right. There, at the other entrance to the lot was a brand new car, shimmering silver, tooting its horn to get a child to move across the path quicker. Scared, the child hurried on and the silver car moved forward. Moved forward toward the empty space. George’s space.
No, this wasn’t right. That was George’s parking spot. She had seen it first. It was hers by right. She stood on tiptoes. The silver car kept moving, ever closer. She shouted. “Get away! Get away!” Hoarse now: “Get away!!” But still the silver car crept on toward that empty spot of asphalt, that parking space that was hers, her gift for George. She would not let that youngster take it from her. She would not
Climbing on the small easy chair that George has put out on the balcony for her to knit in during summer evenings, she could see the dark oblong patch right below her. It seemed so small and then so large. “Get away!” she screamed over and over and over again, but the silver car seemed not to hear her. It was just lengths away now, its orange signal light flashing.
“I’ll get it for you, George! I’ll get it for you, George!” she cried as she leapt.