A once cut jaw softened by sun furrowed, gluttony drawn skin juts from a five-day shadow, bobbling jauntily over a dark leather jacket hugging broad shoulders.
“Seriously?! Seriously?! Two seconds! Two SECONDS I was in there and you’re writing a ticket?!”
The jaw alternates jabs with a plump, hirsute hand, coming uncomfortably close to a set of downcast gray-blond bangs. Punching an electronic device, the middle-aged meter maid with the sad smokey eye barely looks up. From a place of automaticity her deep voice roars with impossible equability, “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to step back. I’m just doing my job, sir.”
Her device whines softly, shoving a white paper slip in the jaws’ direction. She slips the crisp ticket under the windshield wiper where it blends with the milky rust of the aging muscle car and, head level, her orthotic shoe padded pace steady, strides across the street.
The jaw follows for a short while, his generous gut shuddering with each dogged step, eventually content to stand street side shouting profanities at the gray khakis, the faded black jacket already reckoning a culpable silver Lexus.
I slow deliberately as I pass her, trying to catch her eye, to smile. Her posture, her pale face is square, aware but blankly focused. And tired. An exhaustion born of age, of long shifts, but more acutely of that personally partisan execration of those charged with exaction, mixes with professional wariness and simple monotony. She does not look up, does not seem to hear my ‘good morning.’ I resolve to catch her on my return from the grocery – I’ve just got to snag limes, onions, an avocado, it will be a few minutes at most.
When I step from the express lane, a hot chocolate apology in hand, and back onto the cool street, she is gone, the briny putridity of garbage roiling the smell of her hair spray and cloyingly sweet perfume to hang like a threat on the morning air.