Twirl the keys. Stop. Check the phone. Check the clock. Let out a sigh. Resume twirling keys. Stop. Check the phone. Check the clock. It's amazing how long a wait for one simple text can be.
I resume looking back out the house window. I didn't have anything terribly special planned for tonight, just a quiet night with a girl. The kind of girl that you would make plans for having a quiet night with, mind you, but a quiet night all the same. I stare into the unlit headlights of the Oldsmobile Alero sitting in my driveway. Like a Magic 8, I ask it the question, "Am I really going to get stood up tonight?"
Nothing. Just a blank, emotionless stare. If you're like me, you often find yourself assigning facial expressions to front fascias. Miatas are happy. Chargers are angry. MKT's are... Baleen whales. The Alero though, is emotionless, mouth half open. I can hear it everytime it looks back at me, it's saying "Duuuuuh… What?" Definitely not what I need right now.
More time passes. 8 PM, 9 PM. I guess I didn't really have any other plans tonight anyway. 10 PM, 11 PM. She was just dropping her parents off at the airport, how long could this take? 12 PM… Ok, this is enough. I'll try contacting her.
"Hey, uh, what's going on?"
"Oh, sorry. Just woke up."
"Ok… Did you still want to hang out?"
"I'm pretty tired, think I'm just going to go back to sleep"
Stood up for sleep? Not quite sure what to think about that one. I turn my attention back to the Alero. There it sits, with the blank, emotionless stare. Something, anything, would be nice right now, Mr. Olds. Nothing, blank. I'm not sure why I'm asking the car to empathize right now, but I just feel like it should. You weren't my first choice, Alero. You weren't even on the shortlist. You will be punished for your apathy.
It's time for a floggin'.
The Ecotec whines as I turn the ignition. I've honestly heard lawnmowers that sound more badass. As I reach for the shifter, I instinctively put my left foot down, except there's no clutch pedal there. How did I get stuck with this, again? No matter, we'll just have to drive fast enough to make it exciting.
First stoplight. I wait on the dark empty streets for the green. You can see the walk signs flashing, the green-to-yellow in your peripherals whispering in your ear to get ready. Not a single car in sight, the way I like. Wouldn't want to endanger others, now would we? The light turns green and it's wide open throttle. 140 horsepower through a 4-speed automatic turning the front wheels is hardly earthmoving or ear drum shattering, but I do at least get the tires to chirp. The Ecotec growls, trying its damndest to imitate the majesty of its older siblings. The small block, the LS, it would probably even settle for the 3800, but it's a few cylinders too short of any of them.
The tires squeal with understeer. The body leans hard from side to side. The brakes grow hot and tired from overuse. Some say it's more fun to drive slow cars fast. I would say it's more hilarious. The Alero is at it limits, and all I can do is laugh at it. Poor car, aspire all you want, but it's just not going to happen.
When driving this econobox, though, I still feel very much alive. I feel one with the machine. Sure, it's not the fastest, or the coolest, or the most anything, but with driving it's all about the connection. It's about blood and oil coming together. Some may measure driving prowess by how fast your lap time is, or how well you can execute a Scandinavian flick. That's all well and good, but for me, and I think many Jalops would agree, it's an art. It can take you fantastic places, places that you hardly expect.
As my driving calmed I instinctively drove to a sacred spot of mine. It's a wooded ledge overlooking a calm pond, and was shared between myself and a first love. Even though she is long gone, I still visit the place when I have thoughts to sort.
When I pull up to the spot, I see that I am not alone, and instantly recognize the other figure as a high school classmate of mine. This is the same classmate whose dad had been charged with homicide earlier that summer. We exchange pleasantries at first, and go through the usual: How's school going? What's your major this week? What are you up to this summer? He pokes fun at the political bumper sticker on my Alero, I poke fun at the opposing sticker on his BMW.
Inevitably and as if on cue, the discussion moves to the obvious elephant standing right next to us. The trial is ongoing, so I won't disparage details, but one thing did come from my mouth, although I'm still not sure if it is my speech or if it is from somewhere else:
You're not your father. You are your own person. You have the power to do whatever you want with your life. Don't let the actions of others haunt you.
His face visibly lightened. He said thank you, and that it meant a lot to him. I felt like some sort of strange mission was fulfilled. We said goodbye and parted ways.
I'm not a spiritual man by any stretch of the imagination, but if I was told that I was intentionally stood up that night to deliver words of comfort to somebody in need of them, I would totally believe it. All it took was one drive to connect the dots and make it happen.
So go forth, Jalops, and drive. Hoon until your heart is content. Take a journey, because you never know where it might take you.
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