Broken

You can’t fix a person like you can a car. Take this fuel pump. I just went down to the auto supply store and bought it. For a car, the fuel pump is like its heart, right? And you can’t just take someone’s heart out and put in a new one.

Well, yeah, nowadays you sort of can. But you know what I mean!

Can you hold this wrench for me here? Thanks. Yeah, sure, I had my heart broken once or twice. I was what you call a late bloomer. When I was twenty-three I was still looking for my first real girlfriend. Just shy. Plain old shy.

I was working at Kinko’s and there was a girl there who was an artist. Kinko’s was spilling over with artists and intellectuals. It was a college town. Anyway, she was something else.

You know, she wore men’s underwear? Said it was more comfortable. Sometimes I’d come over and she’d be in her underwear eating a bowl of alphabet soup.

Damn, this bolt’s tight. If I could just get a better angle on it…

You know, I don’t know much about cars, but everything I know I learned fixing up this 1978 Celica. And every time something goes wrong, it’s something new, and it’s like I’m accumulating all this knowledge I’ll never need again.

Yeah, she was an artist. We visited the art college in San Francisco where she got her degree. She dressed all in black for the trip–she called it her “city armor.” One student there did nothing but these life-size portraits that looked like they were painted 500 years ago, except that all the heads were beehives. Yeah, beehives.

She showed me a beautiful portrait one of her friends did, and I said it was “nice.” It wasn’t “nice,” she said. That was just the wrong word.

I don’t think she thought much of me. But here I am talking about getting my heart broken when she was more broken than I was. One night we were kissing in the car and I put my hand on the nape of her neck to pull her towards me. She pushed my hand away. It brought up bad memories for her.

Our relationship sputtered along for a while. A relationship is sort of like a car: the longer you have it the more attached you become to its quirks. If it breaks down, you don’t want to leave it by the side of the road. If you’re smart you keep up the maintenance. You take the spark plugs out every once in a while and scrape off the oxidation.

Eventually she just got her fill of “nice,” and I did my blubbering and that was that. Did I love her? I don’t know. I thought I did. Do me a favor and start her up.

Listen to that purr! Well, it’s close enough to a purr for me.


[Originally published by Mash Stories.]

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