“I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.”
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
This post was originally titled Why Guys are in the World and Why Every Girl Should Have One because I had one of those moments today. One of those awful ones where you think, “Oh, this is why it sucks to be single.”
I was walking back to work at nearly three in the afternoon Thursday and had the overwhelming desire to cry. Just. Ball. But the prospect of sitting alone in my office, sobbing, was almost more miserable than the prospect that made me want to cry in the first place. And I wondered, “What is it that normal girls do in a situation like this?” Generally, in the cases I’ve witnessed, they call their husband, or their boyfriend, or their pair swimming partner, or whomever functions as the significant other in their life (and therefore has the duty of dealing with tears). That is: a guy.
It was also a guy who’d made me want to cry. A large, amiable, accented one who drove the tow truck that had delivered my car (MY car!) to my parent’s house shortly before. I’d ridden up front with him and I tried to explain exactly what had happened (as best I could) using terms like “mumbo-jumbo,” and “clickety-clank.” Which he interpreted to mean something very dire and as we deposited the late great Plain Vanilla into the driveway, he said:
“That’s a real shame,” looking ever so much like he meant it. “That’s a pretty nice car.”
And THAT is what made me want to cry, because I could bear it if I could think, “Hey, it was a junker anyway.” But there it was, clear as the towman said: It was a pretty nice car.
Was. Now it’s a pretty nice large metal lawn ornament.
The clickety-clank began in the first stretch of New York Drive and was almost a clunk by the time I was at Altadena. (If you know anything about cars you should be wincing painfully now.) It didn’t make it to Allen. If I hadn’t had to stop at the light I might have made it all the way home, but the engine is (was) pretty quiet (now really quiet), and because I was stopped at the light I didn’t realize it had died until I released the brake. And started rolling backward. Brake. Tried the key. The engine didn’t even turn over. Panic. Emergency lights on. Cell phone out. Calling–who? My parents are in Turkey.
The traffic on New York is pretty fast at this point, after a long stretch of nothing. Bad time to recall that every time I die in a dream it’s in a car accident.
Peter Koch (who you may from now on call Pietro il Salvatore) happened to be driving by at that moment, pulled his car over, and ran across traffic to help me. I looked up just as he reached the car–for you introverts like me: it was like being a long time at party full of strangers and then someone you know walks in the door and makes eye contact with you. A mechanic from a shop nearby joined him and they managed to push the car off the road. And, because the mechanic thought I was doing a poor job of managing the lack of power steering, we traded places and I pushed. “In heels too!” said Peter. The mechanic, with almost as much gusto, said it would cost $1,500 to fix it and he’d let me leave it there till a truck could come to tow it to the dump.
I smiled. And didn’t cry.
But I was late for an appointment to mend a dress for a wedding and the bride was calling to ask where I was, so I left it, and thought that maybe if I came back at three in the morning my brothers could push it home from there. Instead, back at work after pinning, sowing, missing lunch, I called my Aunt Linda and she offered me a husband to call. Namely: hers. Proving the earlier point (which was actually a later point because I’m telling this story out of order).
Thus via Uncle Darrell I got two calls to Turkey, where the people at the hotel didn’t understand me, or couldn’t hear me, or didn’t speak English, one friendly tow truck driver, and a cold bottle of water. Saved again. Car in the driveway. Emailed apology to dad. Back to work. Try not to think about it.
But the mechanic dropped his cell phone in my car. When AAA called me to let me know I was sure they were calling to say that towing my car on my uncle’s membership was illegal. That I’d have to pay. It may not be, but I still had to return the cell phone, and that required returning to both the carcass (token pun) and the place of death. Back again to the mechanic’s three blocks from my house that I’d never been to before in my life and had visited already three times today then back
And didn’t cry. And didn’t cry.