It snowed again so when Billy gets to work he has to shovel for an hour before he can even think about opening the door to his booth. There’s a parking ban on Pearl Street where the parking lot that he tends is located, so Walt, his boss, is expecting a rush today. Billy knows better; with offices and schools closed, nobody’s going to venture out just so they can pay twenty bucks to park in a lot covered in snow and ice. He squeezes in through the door that’s been painted a reflective yellow to keep cars from plowing right through the tiny booth on busy nights. It’s had to be rebuilt four or five times since Billy’s been working there.
It’s freezing in the booth. He watches his breath form and scatter as he feels around in the corner for the plug to the space heater he finally convinced Walt to let him use. Before Walt agreed to it, Billy snuck it in on days he knew his boss wouldn’t be there. On days he did stop by, Billy sat in the cars for as long as he could, letting the heat soak into his skin and his clothes before turning them off and returning to the booth. Each new car to park was a mini jackpot.
Billy settles in next to the window that faces the street. He cups his hands around his coffee mug, pulls the lid off and breathes into the hot liquid so the steam rushes up against his face. He can feel the moisture in his mustache, and he knows that if the space heater doesn’t reach all the areas of the booth pretty soon, he’ll have icicles hanging from his face. He glances out of the booth’s window, waiting.
She stands near her window across the street, and he adjusts his seat so he can see her more completely. He pulls the sleeve of his sweater up out of his jacket and wipes some of the condensation from the window. She stretches her arms up into the air, and his skin tingles at the sight of her slight twitching at the climax of her stretch. She contracts her limbs back, pulls something from her hair and is gone. Billy sips his coffee, an inadequate warmth after the sight of her, and waits for her to appear once more in the window.
This is what he’ll do for most of the morning until she leaves, usually around 830. Without fail, he’ll jump when the front door to her apartment building opens. He’ll look away – down at his hands, into the by-then empty coffee mug, at the blisters in the booth’s paint – with a guilt that tugs at his stomach and keeps him from eating any substantial amount of the meal his wife will have ready when he gets home. By the time he falls asleep tonight the guilt will have eroded into a steady sadness, comforting in its familiarity. In the morning, he will lie awake waiting for the alarm clock. One part of him will want it to sound so badly that it aches, but it is the other part of him that will not let him sleep, will not let him look his wife in the eye across the breakfast table.