'Memory Bank'

Memory Bank

I'm waiting in the car for my wife to come out of the bank. For the next fifteen minutes, from every direction people criss-cross the parking lot, waving at the white-haired cop who keeps traffic moving and cars from bumping one another. On the roof there's an electronic sign with the time and temperature alternating. If I didn't know this place is about money and saw the mix of women and men of different ages, as well as some kids, I might wonder what's happening. Nobody appears to take anything into the building; nobody looks as if he or she is carrying anything substantial out of the building. A few persons exit with pieces of paper in their hands, putting slips in their pockets. Several step back out eating pastry. With my car window down, I hear what is being said in Greek, Khmer, Portuguese, French, and Spanish by people walking past me. I'm pretty sure they speak English, too. If I didn't know better, this could be a language school, citizenship office, or a ticket counter for ethnic events. Maybe these folks are trying to keep their native tongues, every Saturday going inside to say a few sentences to language teachers who reply "Good work" or "Practice more." It could be they are having their memories recorded or perhaps their dreams documented. Inside, they report what they recall about the old country and their journey to America. I could be all wrong. Maybe instead they describe a repeating nightmare, even reveal an explicit fantasy. A few of them show notebooks with scribbles kept on the bedside table. A clerk in the building catalogs the information and files it in a personal folder for future reference and later academic research. It's some kind of local Cultural Depository here at the corner of Central and Middlesex streets. Inside, security cameras capture them talking in low voices to the staff before helping themselves to free jelly donuts and hot coffee.