You might be wondering why I would publish something like The Parking Lot? Why would I even write it? I guess I wrote and published it because my observations there, in that literal parking lot, made a profound impact on me. It caused and continues to cause me to wonder if we’re not too comfortable in our lives sometimes with our taken-for-granted reality that doesn’t begin to resemble what is ‘real life’ for some or many other people. We may see violent movies on TV or read of violent acts in the papers or in work-related documents, but we aren’t really exposed to those other lives with our core senses.
Aside from growing-up in a military household that was governed by someone from the old ‘brown-shoe’ days of the service and living under his heavy hand and all that it entailed, I had never been exposed to the type of life or violence that I encountered in The Parking Lot. I had been relatively ‘sheltered’ in that military family and in a church life that prevented me from seeing anything resembling this, which is probably, or might be good. When I was leaving the Air Force and interviewed for the position with the health department, the person leading the interview session asked me how I felt about having to work with street people, prostitutes, drug abusers, and jail inmates. I responded that I would be fine with it, that I welcomed it and wanted to experience this side of humanity that I had never been exposed to. My interview was successful and I left the comfort of the Air Force and the things that I had known for my entire life of 27 years, and stepped into a place where I worked for 10 years, witnessing and absorbing the spectacles of sadness and other events that I would never have encountered under the sheltering umbrella of my earlier life.
I wrote The Parking Lot to present that other view of life, to provide another mark on our rulers that measure what is good and bad, true and false about our perceptions of our realities. I’ve said before that life is bigger than any rule or policy that we might be compelled to follow. Life is also bigger than the little spot that we, you and I collectively or singularly occupy. Life isn’t really a Nicholas Sparks novel, however sad some of them might be. Sometimes life truly sucks. We sit and complain about our difficulties with paying the bills, refinancing the mortgage, kids, spouses, mates, etc, and think that our lives can be and are hard…and no doubt, they probably are, within the context of the physical and emotional comfort of our lives.
We are also at ease or comfortable with what we perceive to be our eternities as we drive around with our Christian fishes or ‘CCV’ stickers on the back of our vehicles and accept that our views are the correct views, that our God is the right, holy, infallible, etc, while other people look around and can’t see even a speck of their existence that is owed to God, and if they can or do equate their life status to God’s blessing, they think He is either really pissed at them or that they must not be worthy of His notice or attention.
The things I wrote in the earlier two pieces were true in their content. I shared actual lived moments with those people and felt their alone-ness, hopelessness, and isolation from whatever might be good in life, their separation from the ‘good’ that I learned as a child came from God. If these people’s station in life was because they were receiving punishment from God to draw them to or back to Him, then that is just sick. The woman’s questions stir me to the depths of what we might call my ‘soul,’ the core of my being…how could an omniscient and omnipotent God possibly exist and do absolutely nothing when a little girl is being so abused by her father, or any other person? How can He exist? We should not delude ourselves in believing, let alone thinking that God’s ways can be so mysterious as to defy the principal characteristics that He is purported to possess, those of love and compassion.
The psychological literature of the past several decades documents how people’s (women and girls especially) lives are damaged so horribly by the events described earlier. There can be no higher purpose…these things cannot be God’s will. Please! Look me in the eye after reading the medical records and social worker and psychologists’ reports about the physical and emotional damage inflicted during these soul-killing abuses and tell me, rather, tell the little girls and women that God allowed it to happen. I realize that this is probably one of the simplest arguments against the existence of God, but it works.
So, those are my thoughts and opinions as they have been informed and developed by some of the things that I have seen and experienced in my life. Your thoughts and opinions might be different.
I’m not sure if the parking lot of the Navajo Hotel still actually exists as it did back then, but it remains so in my memory.
Where now? To the pile of clothes or to the neatly placed cans of Chef-Boy-Ardee Beefaroni and Ravioli that somehow, when forgetting the six-year-old sister, has the resemblance of baby food? Where do we stop allowing our eyes to roam? When do we tell ourselves that we have seen enough and turn around to face the sun and allow the residents some privacy? We don’t turn. We still stand there. We see what life is offering to another person and see what they are doing with it. Was it offered, and then taken by them, or did they have it shoved into their faces to accept or die for refusing to take it? What hopes of change are nestled in the dirty corners of that oh, so small room? ‘He’s going to be on the cover of a magazine someday.’ I know he is – he’s beautiful…. His smile is enough to wake the birds before the dawn. It’s bright enough to send the gray clouds scattering to allow the sun’s rays to warm the earth, our souls. There must be something that can be done. There must be something that can be done? Must there? Must there be something that can be done?! Was he predestined to this lot? Curse the thought! Curse and god-damn the thought that this must be true!
What about the argument from evil? Where is the scholarly, religious mind that can refute the necessary claim that there is no God? Where is the man or woman who can prove to this little boy’s satisfaction, nay, to his daddy’s satisfaction, that there is a God in spite of the evil horrors and shit that exists in his life? Where is that person? Where is he cowering, right now, from the responsibility that he shares, if he does believe such? He is as guilty, then, of the offense, as is the Biblical God who supposedly created or allowed this mess. He, or she, is as guilty of the blood that has been shed and the tears that have been wept in molding this eternal cauldron in which we all brew. If His words are true, then it is a cauldron, boiling now to consume the lives of the unbelieving and unknowing alike. The big black pot that holds our souls; the death-bowl, fashioned by the same hands that created our eternally damned souls. His Great Love! His infinite wisdom, omniscience, has provided that He knew the future before it existed, yet He still allowed it to occur knowing full well that there were going to be The Unknowing, and He still created them. He still created them! For what Purpose? To see them burn, to see them toast forever in that unforgiving Lake of Fire? His eternal Love? His ever Love!? I don’t think so.
He smiled with recognition and damn near happiness when he peered through the window this afternoon. He pulled the streaked curtains aside to allow his cherub’s face to shine in the window of my heart for yet another moment of another day. Big, brown, sparkling, hopeful eyes that are blind to the ‘life’ around him. When his sister opened the door, he ran to greet me and then flung himself back, shyly, to the pile of clothes in the corner that had been his stool in his effort to look out the window at me, the unannounced guest. Still in the diaper that must be his regal robe, the mantle of his righteousness, he waved the scepter of a broken pinwheel that cries of his innocence, his childhood. What do you hold, oh Life that will become his? What do you hold? What beastly bastard of a monster do you have lurking behind the corners around which he has yet to walk? How many lucky pennies will you cast into the parking lot of his hotel? And how many of those pennies, those goddamnable tokens of silly foolishness that even grown men stoop to pick up in the hopes of gaining unearned, undeserved riches, will be taken away by the very visitors whose aim is to help his tiny soul?
What say you, Child of God? Where is his kingdom? Where will this little one reign? Your Almighty knows, right? He has it all laid out in front of Him, doesn’t He? Where will the little boy grow to know your Savior whose presence is as obvious as the fairness that molds this human existence? What say you, Child of God? Your eyes roam the sky for answers that will not come to you. They do not come because they do not exist. You have naught! You are as empty of answers as his unlearned father, the man whose eyes are clouded behind the scratched lenses of hand-me-down glasses, the man who is able to start the shit day of His blessing only by first swallowing a can of beer, rather, by swallowing the three half-cans of beer that he picked up in the parking lot. He finds his answers in the calm that the alcohol slowly returns to his shaking hands and fucked-up mind.
Speak, Child of God! Answer forth His holiness! Decree your wisdom by His obvious blessings that He has bestowed to Everyone. Everyone! The Most Holy of Everyone! All of the Holy Creatures spawned by His goodness and mercy! Either we All deserve to be shit upon, or none of Us do, for we are all Holy! We are All the Children of God, or we are not! If we All are, then where is the blessing for All of us?
Speak, Child of God! Answer forth a saving and reassuring utterance that will spare his prostitute mother from having to spread her legs and soul wide open for the beast of the land to defile! His mommy said “No, I don’t use my mouth. My daddy made me do that to him when I was a little girl, so now I won’t do it at all, not on anyone. They can screw me,” she says, “because that’s what the whole world is doing to me now. The whole world is screwing me! Tell me where God was when my daddy made me do that! Tell me where God was when I had my daddy’s fat, stinking body laying on top of me, pounding my little girl self into the oblivion where I had to flee to escape his abuse! How could God let a daddy do that to his little girl? Where was God then?! He didn’t exist, that’s where He was! God couldn’t possibly exist when my daddy was giving me infections in all my body openings! He couldn’t exist when that kind of shit was happening to me and everyone else out there! He’s just a figment of people’s imagination, something they wish was there.”
Child of God! Answer forth a saving Shout from Above! A sudden command that life really is fair and we all deserve what we get, for we have gotten what we have earned, and earned the sweet flavor or knife that now caresses or twists in our souls’ belly. You are mute, Child of God! Your open mouths have not tongues to declare any good and true thing! You follow a gilded snake, a deceiver of the first kind. It is a story, a myth, a dream-like conjuring from your twisted imagination, an unoriginal thought built upon the fables of the past thinkers, the wanderers who connived to create a world in which they were the favored ones and the rest were the un-chosen. I know you, Child of God! I see your deceptions, your ruse!
I looked around again and then headed back to my car. Crossing the distance from the boy’s room to the little Toyota, I glanced downward to see what coppery gleam had caught my eye. There were three pennies laying in a sloppy triangle and I had to stop myself from reaching down to get the one that was laying face up….
As I expected, my car was a little harder to start…but it did…and I drove out of the parking lot of the Navajo Hotel. To be continued….