he formerly-blue-and-yellow bulbs of the video store sign were now a boring gray. Sat at a busy intersection, the building’s arthritic foundation lay exposed at the base, its windows caked with muck. Its parking lot was always empty.
It was a mystery why the property had not been purchased and restored to something sleek. The location, after all, was ideal. Just across the pumping turnpike was a market for handcrafted wicker furniture. On its other side was a Chilean restaurant, recently opened. Both businesses saw regular and loyal traffic from the surrounding upper-middle-class suburb, and yet, as if it served some higher purpose, the corpse of the building between them remained stubbornly orphaned.
The two traffic lights within view of the lot had both in recent years received cameras. Stragglers rushing under the yellow light, dangling in its agonizing final moments, would curse at the quick flash of white that caught them as they made it too late to safety on the other side of the intersection.
People had trouble adjusting to the change. But the once-young, now-twenty-somethings had learned to drive under the traffic cameras. They had learned that it was safer just to stop, even on yellow, even when it was, in fact, more dangerous. To just wait. And as they sat at the line, waiting for the lights to give them green, their attention would drift perhaps not so unconsciously to those dead block-letter bulbs:
The urge squirmed in many of them to turn on their directional and coast into the parking lot, to park by the skeevy store-front windows and chip away a clear portal through the grime. Peeking in, they would have seen loose wires snaking out of the ceiling and looming in midair, frozen in stasis, for years unbattered by the breeze of the opening-closing door. They would have seen columns of the same shelves that used to hold the VHS and DVDs, the video games, now just as vacant-white as the walls, floor, and ceiling. They would have seen the front desk, just by the exit, where they were handed their bag of booty before running in victory out to this very same parking lot.
In through the door, and to the left. This was where they would have immediately rushed at five years old, straight to the video games section where they would work through their pitch to their parents for the more mature-rated games.
In through the door, and straight ahead. This was where they would have strode at fourteen, to the horror section where they would browse, arms folded with their friends, eyeing longingly the R-rated section in the corner.
In through the door, but never to the right. That was where their parents went to wait for them, browsing through their own shelves full of unexciting, colorless movies about presidents and generals and lawyers.
If they had parked their cars and peeked through the windows, they would have been reminded. But not a single one of them did. This was something they could not afford. Instead, they turned their heads away. They sat at the red light, waiting for the change so they could soldier on down the pumping turnpike, forever in the opposite direction of home.