Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Fixing Cars

by Shenan Prestwich

Inside the flimsy faux-wood paneled walls
that boxed the overflow of students from
the hallways of the high school—Mr. Wheeler’s
second period psychology—
was where we learned the differences between
the ways in which a woman and a man
communicate: while women like to see
each other’s eyes, and read each wrinkle, smirk,
or facial twitch, be read head-on as well,
a man will occupy his hands and sight
with things like basketball or fixing cars,
or tend to conversate while driving, palms
pressed firmly to the wheel and gaze set steely
on the road, where any thoughts he wants
to speak can flow out unobtrusively
across the scenery like soundtracks.

I’ve often wished that I had any sort
of knowledge or proclivity towards fixing
cars. It always seemed the perfect means
of getting that complex and often awkward
labor—talking to another human being,
sans a script or graceful, flawless blocking—
done: you crank a wrench, “That’s why I’ve always
thought my marriage fell apart; I don’t
want you to make the same mistakes.” You pull
the jumper cables, clamp them down, clip red
to positive, and black to negative,
“I want to let you know, you’ve always been
a decent, honest human being; that’s something
to be goddamn proud of.” Turn the key.
“I’ve always loved you, in my way.”

Whatever words gum up inside our mouths
in any other situation flow
in seamless syncopation with the music
of mechanics, fill the empty bars
between the grinding and the clanks. The metal-
scraping-metal clamor and the low,
accelerating rumble of the engine
are percussion for the lyrics spun
atop them. What we say becomes just more
two-steps and arabesques in our routine
of movement, in our dance of pull and push,
of yank and bend and reach and turn
and slam of hood.
It’s why we feel the need
to meet for drinks, and why the dinner table’s
always been a centerpiece for groups
to eat collectively. The food and drink
are an excuse for being there, as if
to talk requires pretense. We are fools
to speak our minds spontaneously, but
it all seems poignant, never
trite or over-sentimental, in
the context of a fan belt or filet of fish.

I may be lacking of a certain chromosome
that usually compels the handing down
of secrets as to what an alternator
or a spark plug does, and how to read
a vacuum gauge. But man, if I could fix
a car, I’d fix a car all day, and every
Phillips head would resonate with all
the tenderness I’d shown while turning it,
and every spark plug—whatever the hell it is—
would roar to life with all my passions, all
my “Life is hard sometimes, inevitably”s,
all my “You are not alone”s, and all
my “You have changed me”s. And the hood would bend
its rusty knees and shut each time, entrap
and swallow all it's overheard and burn
it up for fuel, and fly on asphalt lanes
outstretched like forceful rivulets
or open arms below its treads for miles.

No comments:

Post a Comment