The boys pass by my window like a slow-moving film reel. One boy sits inside a blue shopping cart, followed by the second boy pushing a second cart. The little parade rolls down the street, moving in the direction of traffic. There are few cars at this time of day, but I still worry. Their parents are nowhere to be found.
Later the boys come back, against traffic but on the sidewalk this time. They take their carts through our parking lot and down the side street. They disappear from view.
When I leave for the day, I see the two carts sticking up out of a construction dumpster. Bright blue plastic amidst the plaster and bricks. I wonder how the two boys managed to heave the carts up that high, above their heads. And I wonder where they have gone.
There is no music today. The air conditioning starts up with a loud rumble. The water fountain whines and whirs. Birds chirp and the wind whips sticks and leaves against the building. These are the instruments that make up my symphony.
Goose bumps rise up on my arms. I cross my legs at the ankle. Then the knee. Then the ankle. I sip from my water, which is no longer cold, but I am too lazy to go get more ice.
My screen flashes. I click, read, answer. I open a new window. I type. I move from place to place without ever getting up from my chair. I avoid the work that I know needs to be done.
Today the little girl’s father will leave. She doesn’t know it, but this has been coming for years. The girl remembers a party, and the brightness of her mother’s smile. But that was a long time ago. When did her mother’s mouth start to curve in the other direction? When did her father start eating dinner alone at his desk?
Tomorrow she will cry at school, and the counselor will give her permission to go someplace quiet whenever she feels sad. The girl will choose the Time Out corner, where no one can see her tears. A couple weeks later, another little girl will get in trouble. When she goes to the corner, she will be startled to find someone already there. But then, the greatest friendships are always a surprise.
When the little girl grows up, she will barely remember her father. His warm brown eyes, his bristly mustache, the faded flannel shirts he always wore. These things will become black and white photographs stored in a dusty box in the attic of her mind. But she will never forget the day her friend sat next to her in the Time Out corner, shoulder to shoulder, and held her hand. Together they made up a story about singing elephants and a monkey who wanted to fly. Together they wrote their own happily ever after.