Her man doesn’t have a car – it broke down before they met and because the expense was worth as much as the car he sold it for scraps, he’s at work. She sends him a text. “I got a flat!”
After he reads it “Fuck this place” he whispers to himself, stuck at work, barely making ends meet while his employer of twenty years rakes in the profits. If he had wheels he would have just left.
After a few calls and texts no one has the means to help her. She is not going to leave the car. Without it life’s difficulties would increase in severity. The mental stress would result in heavy drinking or maybe her already short fuse would shrink. With the car, she stays.
“Hey, I’m okay. I’m going to spend the night here, in the car.” She assures him that she will be fine. He is half way home, one more bus and he’s there. He checks the Metro app, “thirty two minutes, shit.”
It’s downtown. At the foot of a skyscraper with his back against the wall, eyes open, music turned down he waits. Every person out is under the same alert, on the lookout for human aggression. Times are tough and people are desperate. At and around the bus stop there’s a mix. A film crew for the “Captain Maravel” movie, security guards, crowd control, a couple of drunks, the wired, the hypes, the lit and even a few suits.
He conjures a plan. Borrow his sister’s car, get to his love, take the rim and shredded tire off, drive to a tire shop, then return to put it back on and drive home after dropping off his sister’s car. He shares the plan with his wife. “That sounds good.” She sounds happy and relieved.
His sister answers half asleep “what happened?”
“Luna was coming back from dropping her daughter off at her dad’s house. Her tire popped and now she’s stranded about two hours away. Lend me your car tomorrow. I’ll take you to work then pick her up.” She doesn’t answer for a few seconds. “Hello? You awake? Did you hear what I said?” After a few sleepy breaths. “Yes, see you in the morning.”
1 a.m. and he finally arrives at his mother’s house where his sister currently lives. His room is still as he left it. He gets comfortable and falls asleep.
She’s lying low and under a blanket. Good thing she thought to bring it, in case her daughter wanted to nap. She is being cautious. She does not want to draw attention to her car. “I have to pee!”
It’s really dark, she looks up and sees thousands of stars. “So beautiful.” She waits until there are no cars on either side of the freeway. She darts towards some bushes, squats and relieves her bladder. “Ahhh.” Again she waits for no cars and runs back to the car. She goes into a brief panic but then calms herself when she remembers God is with her. Her faith is strong but not conventional. She falls asleep.
Three hours later he wakes up and gathers what he will need and what he thinks he might need. “Where the keys?” On the table his sister says from the bathroom. He loads the trunk and warms the engine.
His sister now at work he jumps onto interstate 5 heading north.
He knows she’s about two hours out but starts looking for her after an hour. At this point his imagination is his worse enemy. He’s anxious, worried and scared.
Heading northbound she will be on his left so he hogs the fast lane so he can see over the center divider. A few miles later the highway splits. For two miles he can not see the southbound lanes. Then, it opens up again, what a relief – “the other side.” But still, he doesn’t see her. “Damn it! What if she was behind that chunk of land? Relax! It hasn’t even been an hour” he tells himself.
She mentioned a lake. He passes a sign for Lake Hughes. He hits the call button. She picks up after the first ring, he speaks “Hi babe! You okay?”
“Yeah I’m fine. WHERE ARE YOU!” She yells over the background noise: wind, cars, trucks, and big rigs. “I just passed a sign for a Lake Hughes.”
“CAN YOU….” the call drops just when he is going to ask if she can see the north bound lanes. “SHIT!” He doesn’t freak, instead he thinks “I’ll just drive until I’m almost where her kid’s dad lives and head back slow with the hazard lights on so I don’t miss her.”
The four lane road splits again. “Damn it!” He can’t see the other side so he gets out of the fast lane to let cars pass. The hills end and for three miles the south bound lanes are visible but no signs of her. He looks ahead “good no hills splitting the road. He merges back onto the fast lane and just as he settles after looking into his side mirror and over his shoulder he sees her car and her, practically standing on it. He honks. Three quick horn bursts. She sees him and smiling big waves as he passes. He falls in love all over.
He gets off at the next exit. A huge hug and kiss is exchanged. He takes the necessary out of the trunk and begins. He knew the car was on loose dirt so he brought two wooden boards, sets them up and then the jack. He tries with his arms and it does not budge. He stands to take a breath, she gives it a try, nothing. “I’m going to use my body weight” he tells her. “Okay.” The lug wrench is shaped like a cross and now the side arms are horizontal. After making sure it is over the entire lug he jumps and bounces. It gives but not as expected. Rather than loosening it, it snaps off. “You broke it” she says calmly. She hands him the nut with the broken piece inside it. “Fuck!” He yells feeling a pinch of failure.
“It’s okay. It can be fixed.” She says kindly. He looks to the ground and mumbles “I fucked up your car.” “It can be fixed.” She repeats. “You said you brought oranges and apples, where are the oranges?” Her stomach growls.
He makes the call to ‘tripple a’ and reactivates his account and adds Luna and her daughter to his membership. While they wait for the tow truck Luna pulls out a yoga mat from the car and lays it on the dirt in shade of a desert bush. They sit. She hands him a quarter of an orange and napkin. “Thanks.” He takes a bite. “Sorry I broke your car.”
“it’s going to get fixed.”