Some wait with their engines on, adjusting the air conditioning vents in summer to blow full on their faces or turning on their seat warmers in winter, their thighs roasting quietly.
Their seat belts start to chafe. The moments of their lives tick by.
Some roll down their windows and talk. “Didn’t they say five?” they ask each other when the clocks on their dashboard say 5:23. They imagine the coaches and teachers laughing at them, secretly keeping their children extra minutes and hours. Peeking out between the window blinds at the line of cars and watching for one of them to break.
They imagine a parental uprising. They make long lists of grievances. They tally up all the moments they have lost to the waiting. They contemplate the places they need to be and how late they have already become. Their minds travel down the roads between the soccer field and the high school parking lot. How long will they have to wait for the next child?
There is no gender. Men and women wait, though it feels like something women should be better at. The men cluster together in the shade of a tree and criticize the way Joey swings the bat, but they don’t feel like men. Men don’t wait.
They text their child: “Where are you?” and “Move it along.” They watch them on the field. They imagine them tucked away deep inside the hallways of the school and they remember the smell of childhood. They curse their urge to reproduce.
They think deep philosophical thoughts. What is the point of it all, anyway? Waiting is all life is. You wait to grow up. You wait to get laid. You wait to drive your dad’s rusted, red truck. You die.
They wait with other children in the car who ask them to change the radio station. Who want the windows up or down. Who need a new DVD to watch. Who are silent as always, their headphones plugged in. Who cry endlessly. Who won’t shut up.
They contemplate affairs. They see their lovers’ faces. They picture the soccer coach’s body naked, in the shower. He’s always so kind to their child.
They think about their sick and dying parents.
They think about their child who is depressed. They think about their child who is on drugs. They think about their child who won’t get into the right college.
They talk on their cell phones. They check their e-mail. They Skype with the boss. They read reports.
They grab a snack. They eat fast food. They pack carrot sticks and apples. They find an unopened bag of jelly beans in the pocket of the passenger-side seat and they eat them all, even the worst flavors—licorice and lemon.
They stare into space. They feel how the air cools down after a rain. They watch the way the snowflakes move in the wind. They see a cloud change shape. They smell new-cut grass.
They sit at traffic lights. Sometimes they get home and have no memory of the drive. The children are asleep. They put them to bed and wait for them to wake.
About the author:
Robyn Ryle started life in one small town in Kentucky and ended up in another just down the river in southern Indiana. She teaches sociology to college students when she's not writing and has stories and essays in CALYX Journal, Big Truths, Midwestern Gothic, Bartleby Snopes, and WhiskeyPaper, among others. You can find her on Twitter here.