Disappearing

She pressed the release button on the seat belt buckle until it sounded a reassuring click, retracting the shiny black fabric back into its chamber. She then pulled the door handle towards her and pushed the door open with the same hand, mentally preparing herself for the physical effort required to lift her body from the car seat to a standing position. Somehow she managed to summon the willpower to ignore both the aches deep inside her legs, and the deafening pain in her back, to achieve this seemingly impossible task.

While she was immersed in this all-consuming internal struggle for simple bodily movement, her husband had problems of his own to contend with. He had left the safe sanctuary of their car to navigate his way across the short stay car park. A small triangular patch of worn tarmac, the car park was neatly divided into rectangles – the markings long disintegrated by the saline lashings of its Estuary position lodged between streets near the civic gardens.

He walked with trepidation, trying to anticipate the sudden movements of cars emerging from parking bays. He was also hoping that there wouldn’t be anyone else in the queue at the pay-and-display machine too, as his adrenaline levels were already far too high. He had just experienced the usual rage exchange between drivers, each determined that their right to the last available parking space took higher priority than anyone else’s. This time the standoff was between an old blue hatchback driven by wild-haired woman to the left, and a pick-up driven by balding man, surly teenagers at his side. The pickup moved at speed towards him with indicators flashing angrily – yet somehow by sheer force he had won the battle for territory this time around.

He fumbled in his pocket to locate the right combination of coins required to pay the 1.40 for their regular Wednesday morning shopping trip to the High Street. The two smaller coins clattered through the machine easily, flicking the allowable time upwards with each coin ensnared. The larger one, however, proved more troublesome. Only on the third attempt did the machine accept his metal disk, compliantly spewing out the flimsy square paper necessary to validate their car’s short residency.

Now they were back at the car, having placed the ticket in its usual position on the dashboard, completing their usual checks on the car’s door knobs to see that they were in their comforting downward position of safety. She took with her a white plastic bag containing the transforming toy she had bought on their previous shopping trip a week earlier. It had transpired (after several messages exchanged between her and her son), that the birthday present she had bought for her soon-to-be seven-year-old grandson was not the right one. He really wanted the Vario Mutatator, which apparently was completely different to the Optimus version she had purchased. She found the whole affair quite baffling, as they all looked the same to her, in their brightly coloured packaging littered with forceful adverbs and twisted machinic visuals.

As they turned the corner, the Estuary shifted into view – and there it was: the continual presence and backdrop to their long weary lives. Sucking in every small hope and fear, and then exhaling … who knows what.

Then a strange sensation occurred. A momentary shift in time – something had changed everything – irreversibly: this much was clear. An entity had evaporated into a space – and it was one that wasn’t there before.

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