Sure, I’ll admit it. The car is a gift to myself. It’s not a necessary component of my daily life. No, it’s a moving declaration of my mid-life crisis.
And hey, I deserve a mid-life crisis! Come with me. As I roll down the streets of my memory, let’s examine all the places that I’ve royally botched things up.
Ah, here’s college. The good ol’ alma mater, where I spent every night partying. Which, as it turns out, probably wasn’t the best idea. My grades were all right, sure, but I still lagged behind my classmates, and not just from the resulting hangover. They went off and got jobs at fancy law firms. I ended up back home, pulling double shifts to afford my crappy apartment. Hah. More like compartment, if you managed to squeeze inside.
Of course, then I met Jill. Love of my life, from the moment I laid eyes on her. If I hadn’t been back at my home town, back working at the front counter of that little shop, I never would have met her when she came strolling in.
I can see that some of you in the audience are perking up. “Maybe this is a love story,” you say.
“Maybe this will all turn out smiles and happiness in the end,” you whisper to each other.
“Perhaps he’s just showing us how far he fell so that we can see how high he rose,” you exclaim hopefully.
Sorry, folks, no such luck. We’re still dropping.
Of course, it wasn’t all descent for a while. Somehow, my bone-brained humor was enough to make Jill laugh. And what a laugh, man! Some girls do that little tinkle, a fake little giggle that makes you wonder whether you’re actually dating someone old enough to be legal.
Jill didn’t laugh like that. When Jill laughed, it came bursting up out of her, rising like a bubble to overwhelm her in a tidal wave. You couldn’t help but be swept along with her. Some people write about a contagious laugh. Jill actually possessed one.
So there I was, somehow making this angel laugh along with my dumb jokes. I don’t know how I overcame my natural shyness, how I managed to do it, but I asked her out. And she said yes.
Stop awwing in the audience! I can hear you, you know. And it’s not gonna end well. Just want to make that clear up front. We’re about to switch over to straight tragedy.
Things went well at first. Really well. We connected like, well, like a love story. We were totally in tune, in sync. She brought out the best in me, encouraged me to apply for a promotion. And I got it! I remember coming home with a huge double handful of flowers, flowers I could actually afford to buy for her, and telling her it was all because of her encouragement. And she laughed, and swept up the flowers in her arms, and I told her she was beautiful, and we fell together on the couch.
And things were great. I remember they were great. In fact, they were great for a long time – right up until they weren’t.
I still don’t know what triggered it. Nothing seemed to change, there was nothing different. And maybe that’s the trouble, right there. Maybe the stagnation was building up, and this was when it finally chose to blow, with no warnings to signal what was about to hit me.
I came home, just like any other day. Unlocked the door, already shrugging out of my coat, and set my briefcase down inside the front hall.
But my briefcase bumped up against a suitcase that was already there.
That was when I looked up and saw her. She had her coat on. There were tears in her eyes. She didn’t want to leave, didn’t want to go. But she went.
I told you folks that it was a tragedy, didn’t I?
Sure, she said things to me, things I barely heard. How she was comfortable with me, maybe too comfortable, how that scared her. How she was worried she had lost that sensation of new, of being in giddy, head-over-heels love, how she needed to go out and find herself. How it wasn’t my fault, how I shouldn’t blame myself for this, how she just needed some time alone, she didn’t know how long.
She said a lot. I really didn’t hear most of it.
That kind of brings us up to now, doesn’t it? Sure, I’m skipping over a lot of crying and moping and eating crappy food and feeling sorry for myself in my boxers on the couch, but I know you don’t want to hear about that. And finally, after the millionth luxury car commercial, I went out and bought one for myself, a vain attempt to cheer myself up out of this depression.
Of course, even with the promotion, I couldn’t just stroll into the auto dealership. So I went to one of those used places instead. Found a nice ride, arranged to have it checked out, then delivered right to my door. Nice service.
And the car’s still pretty new, see? Still got the sticker on the rear view mirror. Says “Events in mirror are closer than they appear.”
What? Huh, that’s odd. Isn’t it supposed to say something else?
Anyway, the seat feels nice. Leather, hardly scratched. Turn the key, the engine rumbles right to life. Sounds good. The thing’s gonna chew through gas, but oh well. Maybe Jill was right. Maybe I’m also doing my thing to search for that spark.
Okay, let’s see. Hmm, mirror’s off. Let’s just adjust that-
That’s really weird.
Hold on. Look at that, in the mirror. You can see my hand, right? See the wrinkles on the fingers, how the skin’s a little bunched up around the wedding band. Gold’s a little scratched, but it still looks nice.
Except I’m not wearing a wedding band.
I was thinking about it, you know. Thinking about proposing to her. That had been my approach to spicing things up, to getting that spark back. I thought she was just a little down because I hadn’t proposed yet. Maybe if I had beaten her to the punch, she wouldn’t have left.
But she did leave. I never got a chance to show her the ring in my pocket.
But now, in the mirror… there, see? It’s still there, in the reflection. Not a trick of the eye at all – there’s a wedding band wrapped around my ring finger there.
“Events in mirror are closer than they appear,” huh? Well. I’ve never been much of one for flights of fancy, wild imaginations, any of that. But this seems promising.
Let’s take this baby out for a spin.