In the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 199,5 a Ryder truck rigged as a bomb went of at 9:02 AM, killing at least 168 people and injuring 680 others.
I hate waiting. I hate waiting for my own paintings to dry—that’s how bad I am. I hate waiting rooms; I hate taking a number; I hate the shitty gossip magazines on the tables and the people all around me with their smells and their rustling and their bored faces resigned to the wait. I stand holding the heavy glass door to the social security office, taking it all in—the place just opened, I mean just opened, it’s 9:00 sharp, and already all these people are here and finding seats, everybody hoping to beat the crowd and get it over with. The fluorescent lights are still waking up with flickers and a buzz, service reps are still opening their stations, walking to their chairs blowing on their coffee and looking over the rim of the mugs at the crowd like pool players lining up their shots, sizing up the difficulty level, the overall mood. One of them is smiling, peaceful like she just came in from a good run and is looking forward to helping all these folks but she sees me in the doorway and grimaces, already deciding that I’m going to give her grief today.
I’m not. I’m just here for a copy of my social security card, easy peezy. I’ve done this twice before, I always lose my purse so I know about the paperwork and the wait before my real card comes in the mail. I just need that receipt that says I ordered one, so I can work tonight. No receipt, no shift. An older gentleman with wavy gray hair hands a magazine to his wife. It’s got Howard Stern’s ugly mug on the cover. The woman looks at it and makes a face, says, “Fool,” her voice a fluttery twang. Her husband shakes his head and I’m with them, no gossip rags for me, so I turn and walk out of the social security office.
Do I have any art supplies the car? Even a pencil and paper, anything to doodle on. I stride across the building’s downstairs lobby, smiling at people as I go because I feel badly for how I affected the social security worker just now. After all, why not be cool? The morning sunlight is blocked because some asshole has pulled a big yellow Ryder truck in front of the glass doors like it’s moving day at the Murrah T. Federal Building or something. People skirt the truck on their way in, pouring around it like water around a stone, rushing because it’s 9:01, and they’re officially a little late for work. There’s a G-man looking dude in a tight black suit who I figure for one of the Secret Service or DEA guys with an office upstairs. He sees me and holds the door open for me, the yellow side of the Ryder truck outside framing him in a way I tell myself to remember to paint later. He wears a not-so-patient smile on his face that tells me anytime now, so I try to hurry.
Constance Squires is the author of the novels Along the Watchtower, Live from Medicine Park, and the recent short story collection, Hit Your Brights. Her short fiction has appeared in Guernica, The Atlantic, Shenandoah, Opossum, and other magazines.