Cars Parked Across From Me

Starting midblock at the open lot. An Econoline colored burgundy like church camp t-shirts. Has large tinted windows that one could lean against on a long roadtrip watching America spread out like a movie whose end is a destination. A spoiler front and center above the windshield winks at aerodynamism but looks slow like the horns of a steer bowed to drink from a muddy puddle on a hot day. It’s the kind of van that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles turned awesome with tricked doors and pizza shooters. When I was a kid in Mexico I bought the bootleg and loved it despite its thin brittle plastic and none of my action figures could fit right like they should.

Next is a brown Suburban landboat who has the polite nod of a hard working man wiping sweat from his tired glass brow. The whistle blows soon but for now he’s a function. A good cell. The truck is clean and well maintained, but the rear left tire is worn and smaller than the others. Maybe there was a blowout but the money for a good fit just isn’t here yet. The man at the Sears AutoCenter said that $200 now could save a thousand in balancing, or god forbid the axel should break, but $200 now could save a lot of things, couldn’t it? $200 now could save the electric bill from becoming delinquent and could save a kid with strep who needs penicillin. Could save a marriage that just needs a date, or a family dog from heartworm. Could save an addict from withdrawal or the latest insurance payment on the truck with one small tire cause that’s better than no truck at all.

The Oldsmobile sedan is a pale sickly beige, but it’s had a good run. Snooty features speak of distinction in the easy curve of the hood. When cars like this used to be made to seem as though they were hauling themselves forward across the Earth. Nowadays, as seen in the late-model Toyota Camry parked next in line, the design of the body is built as though the car were pushing itself from powerful hindquarters, or as is the case with cars like the Scion or neutral bodied wonders like the Prius, the momentum seems to come from nowhere at all—a levitation, some magnetic anomaly.

Not so with the small green pickup directly in front of me. It’s from the 90’s—the midpoint between. Where the geometrical utility of a future envisioned by the 80’s was eschewed in favor of economic pragmatism. We hadn’t yet moved away from the idea that vehicles could be more than pods to pull us through space, subservient beasts. This truck looks like a deer caught in mid-run, about to grab the soil with its forelegs, but having just pushed off with its hind. We hand’t yet realized, fully, that fiberglass frames meant aesthetic luxury at any pricepoint. A clever designer is all a company needs to keep you riding in style. In a few years though the plastic started coming off and the bumpers cracked on a light rearending. The engine went into the driver’s lap and the airbags suffocated our children and we realized the trap of easy style and no payments till November ’96. But by then it was too late.

Nobody wants to take a lemon off of our hands and the hand-me-down carriage was junked because no selfconscious teen can be seen in a piece of shit like that.


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