Thursday, November 11, 2021

What Troubles

My body's getting old.  It hurts constantly now.  Long Covid?  That's what I think, but you know, we weren't built to last.  I'm tired all the time.  I can do one thing and then I'm pretty much wiped out.  I will be living the life of Proust soon but for someone to bring me Madeleines.  The little fucker had servants.  I have to get out of bed to get my own things.  But lying in bed hurts as much as being up.  I guess I need to ring a bell for someone to bring my servings of Laudanum.  

That's how old men write in that liminal zone between late night and early morning.  One must be "eurytemporal"at this stage of one's career.  But I am like a baby--early down, early to rise.  Mostly. 

Maybe it was the day that wore me down, though.  There were "things" to do, and I have grown accustomed to doing nothing.  The great nothingness of life is my nemesis, of course, but now, when confronted with the somethingness of existence, I get flummoxed.  There is always something that must be done.  I have gotten good at ignoring them.  

But a car is necessary.  So early, I drove my car to the repair shop and dropped it off.  Then, broken, twisted, and brittle as I am, I made the long journey home on foot.  I brought a camera to keep me entertained though I have made this trip a few times now and know there is nothing of real interest.  But photography can be about walking.  That is when you really see things.  So I carried my new favorite camera and lens, an old Leica R5 SLR with a 24mm lens and standard black and white film.  

I was fine for a long time.  But as the miles passed underfoot, I realized my stride had shortened.  Not only that, but my heels seemed to drag a bit.  Just once in awhile, but occasionally the heel of my shoe would scrape.  My pace had slowed as well, and I was more willing to stand and look around.  I remembered that a photographer should always turn around as the view is obviously different, the light and shapes and shadows.  That was difficult, too.  

Miles from home, I was doing the bum shuffle.  My back and hips were barking.  

But when I got home, I sat down for a few minutes, and when I got up, the pain was mostly gone.  I felt like walking more.  I didn't.  But maybe, I thought, I could walk my way back to a youthful sauntering.  That is all I desired, I was sure.  

It was not nearly noon yet, but I decided to eat.  I warmed a bowl of the vegetable beef stew I had made on Sunday.  Consumed with the end of the crusty bread and a can of bubbly water.  I wanted a glass of wine, but I told myself no.  Mmm.  Bubbly water.  

Still waiting word from the repair shop, I hopped into the shower.  And then, I thought, having risen early, I might lie down a bit and rest.  And that is when the phone rang.  Nobody calls but scammers, and their numbers will not ring through unless I have called them, so I knew it was the car place.  But the phone was in the other room, and I did not feel like getting up.  A bit more rest, a weary man,  

Curiosity, though, kept me from slumber, so I got up to check the phone.  It was, indeed, the mechanic.  I called him back.  And this is where it gets curious.  There was nothing wrong with the car, he said.  It was the key.  It was not communicating with the car's computer or something.  I needed to get a new key.  

That seemed good news.  

He said he would change my oil and call me when the car was ready.  

By mid-afternoon, I was taking Uber back to the shop.  

I took my car straight away to the locksmith he recommended.  It was a small, crummy place with two fat cripples visible in the garage.  They weren't "cripples" per se.  They just had the same sort of problem I have standing and walking, only more so.  They were fatter than I and in more pain than I.  They were not happy men.  

After fifteen minutes of pulling in, backing out to let one of their trucks out, pulling in, backing out to let another one of their trucks out, pulling in to park in an empty spot they made, then backing out and pulling into the garage, the owner told me he would let some fellow help me.  The fellow was a big Aussie redneck with a sweet disposition and a wry but painful smile.  He said he would run a scan, whatever that meant.  I was asked to sit in the grungy waiting room full of mismatched chairs against walls that badly needed painting.  The floor tile looked ancient and had never been properly cleaned.  It was a waiting room of my youth, dirty, greasy. . . awful.  It was the waiting room of the poor.  

I heard the owner and the Aussie talking through the open door.  Their tone told me the story.  Jesus, I thought, I made a mistake long ago.  I'd always taken my car to the dealer for repairs.  Then, one day, something was different.  They were charging me a thousand dollars every time I went in, it seemed.  I was feeling scammed.  So I started taking my car to a shop near my house.  They were reputably good and fair.  On my first visit, my "check engine" light was on.  The dealership told me I needed to replace the catalytic converter.  This was very, very expensive.  The new guys, though, said that they were still fine.  I liked them right away.  

With each service, though, my car was lesser somehow.  Repairs were done with less expense, sure, but parts were being chucked.  There were workarounds.  Sitting in the grungy locksmith waiting room, I heard the lady working the phones tell someone that the Land Rover key was proprietary, and that programing it wrong could do serious damage to the car, so it was really important to take it to a dealer who knew how to do it properly.  Holy moly!  It was what I feared.  I should have stuck with the dealer.  

Half an hour or so later, the big Aussie came in with "that" look.  He wasn't smiling and jovial.  He'd done what he could do, but. . . it could be this. . . it could be that.  He'd done this, and he'd done that, but. . . well. . . .  Maybe it would be o.k.  He sold me a new remote and said that might fix everything.  But if not, he said, I might want to take it to the dealer.  Then he explained to me that the car's computer system. . . especially something called the CAT. . . . 

He took me to the car to walk me through the gauges and what to look for.  When I tried to start the car, it wouldn't.  He had me turn the key on and off several times without starting it as he looked at the lights on the dash.  He narrated the series of lights for me.  Yea.  

"Try it now."  

It started.  

"If you're lucky. . . " he said.  

The car is a 2005 model.  That is the first thing they shake their head about.  Computers, chips. . . time.  Why in the fuck did they ever decide to put computers into cars.  Replacing computers and chips is not going to be worth it.  Driving home, I thought it might be time to trade for something new.  I should do what old people do, I thought--buy a new car and trade it in every few years.  There comes a time in life when you can no longer stand the hassle.  

Driving home, I noticed it was time to go to mother's.  I didn't want to.  I was beat.  So I called.  Oh, she understood.  It was o.k.  Her cousin Beverly had stopped by to see her that afternoon.  And--oh!  She was sitting outside talking to a neighbor when they heard a woman screaming.  They walked out to the sidewalk to see what was wrong.  A woman was running down the sidewalk with a baby in her arms yelling for help.  My mother's story was quite long and convoluted, but the short version is that the baby had fallen in the pool of some new neighbor's house where she was visiting.  The baby wasn't breathing.  The neighbor tried giving it CPR, then another neighbor came out.  The woman renting the house that had the pool came out with the phone.  She was talking to an emergency worker who was telling her how to do the CPR, when to push on the ribs and when to breathe.  She was talking the instructions to the man who was performing the maneuver.  An ambulance showed up in awhile.  The baby wasn't breathing.  When the ERs got the baby to the ambulance, though, everyone heard it start to cry.  They had gotten the water out of its lungs and got it breathing once again.  

I listened on to the story in disbelief.  This happened?  To my mother?  Holy shit, I said, the baby will be brain dead.  Yes, that's what they were saying, she said.  They were not sure how much damage the child had sustained.  It hadn't breathed for like ten minutes.  

"Oh Jesus, mom, how horrible.  You were there for all of that?"


I was having a hard time getting my head around all that. 

The renters moved in about a month ago.  Nobody ever sees them.  They moved down from Chicago we hear.  He is an attorney.  That made me wonder a bit.  He would have to pass the state board exam to practice here.  If not, he couldn't practice law as an attorney.  He could work as a paralegal which for many attorney's is an option, especially if they are making no money on their own.  But you know. . . .  So my mother's 89 year old friend who lives next to them threw a "Get to Know the Neighbors" shindig for them.  Almost all the neighbors showed, but not the new renters.  I say they are shady.  

Now. . . a woman carrying a lifeless baby into the street.  It is like a true detective story.  I can't wait to get over there and fire up the rumor mill.  

But poor mom.  

To test the car, I went to Whole Foods.  I stopped at the dry cleaner's to drop off my spring/summer duvet to be cleaned.  At Whole Foods, I returned some t-shirts I ordered on Amazon.  God, I love that I can do that.  I picked up fixings for dinner and got in the car.  It started.  

"Maybe you'll be lucky."  

A misty rain moved in.  The wipers came on.  They do no good.  Another thing I have to fix. 

At home, the feral cat, having missed breakfast, came running to get dinner.  Her boyfriend showed up, too.  

"You'd better hurry.  It could start coming down at any minute."

The neighbor's cat scurried off quickly.  I went into the house but left the kitchen door open.  The feral cat approached.  She has been coming closer of recent. 

"Oh, baby. . . do you want to come inside?"

She did.  She knows where the food is kept and she can tell that it is dry inside.  I tell her all the time as I watch her scratch that she should have become domesticated long ago.  I guess as she gets older (like me), she is beginning to agree.  I had to make a quick move to keep her out.  No, no. . . I'm not going to get trapped into that.  

And so, the misty rain continues this morning.  The world outside my door is shiny and gray.  

And I wonder.  What troubles lie ahead today?

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