I am slumbering nicely after an emotional day. A close friend's father was laid to rest at Riverside National Cemetery and my last images behind closed lids at bedtime are of the flag presented to her mother by a soldier on bended knee. Grief is a mysterious emotion. An old woman's silent tears flow and yet she looks strong as an oak.
A bright yellow light awakens me, screaming through my bedroom window. An engine chugs. Clanging and rattling chains yank me into coherence. I peek through my blinds and see big plumes of exhaust rising in the cold early morning air. It is coming from a rumbling tow truck across the street.
The man quickly hooks my neighbor's SUV up to his tow truck, working deftly with chains and levers. I wonder for a fleeting moment if he is stealing the car. A light flicks on in the house. The man looks at the glowing window and returns to his cab. His muffled voice speaks into a radio. He returns to his levers and the SUV begins rising.
My neighbor comes out. On bare feet she walks slowly to the car, clutching her thin arms across her nightshirt. The man says something to her and she answers. She stops in her tracks on her lawn, near the sidewalk. She looks left and right, down the street, up to the night sky and then down at her feet.
The SUV jerks to a stop and hydraulics wheeze. The man lowers it back to the ground and motions the girl over. She unlocks the doors and retrieves a tote bag, some papers and a stuffed toy from the back seat. After closing the door, she gives him the key and wipes her face.
The man turns his yellow light off and flicks on flashing blue ones. His tow truck groans and again the SUV rises. Moments later, he climbs into his cab , revs his engine and slowly rolls away.
My neighbor has dropped her bag and papers on the grass. She stands alone on the sidewalk, clutching the small bear and watching her car disappear. I do not know her, but I know the car. It is already gone when I leave for work in the early morning and it does not return until long after I've finished my dinner. It carries two young children to and fro with their mother, and sometimes a friendly mutt bursts out of its hatch back.
I turn my head back from the disappearing tow truck to see the girl looking at my bedroom window. I feel like an intruder. Does she see me? Should I go outside? Stupidly, I wave at her. She does not wave back. She gathers her belongings, wipes her face again, straightens her hair and walks to her front door. The silhouette of a small child stands behind the screen door against the yellow light.