Going to the Shop

Image of car on highway in rearview window.

By Joel Pazmiño

         “Your mom wanted the pyramid and the rosary.” His dad turns to him from the passenger seat. His uncle drives the Sequoia. His four year-old cousin quietly snores next to him.

         They had planned this a few days ago. They were to go over Flushing Bay and to the mechanic, to the final resting place, to collect what they left behind in the trunk. But first Now, they wait in the Sequoia across the street from the mechanic. He doesn’t think of the metal and the wheel, only that he was there. His fingers twirl around each other. He bites his lip and stares off into the distance. The summer wasn’t supposed to go this way.

         It was another morning, like any other, and he changed out of his work clothes and showered, ready for errands.He dropped his mom off at her doctor’s appointment, and she said, looking through the rear-view mirror, “Your eyes look swollen. Tienes que descansar.” And that’s what happened in the hot morning sun.

         But now his dad is twirling the car keys, signals them, and points down the block. His oversized shirt ripples in the dry wind. The Sequoia pulls away from the curb. From the backseat, the view of the road plays like a projection, and he’s back in the driver’s seat. He knows the gravity of what happened that Wednesday morning on the highway, and who’s responsible and who’s to blame and what to do and this and that. He knows. Yet his head aches at the lecture he gives himself, as he swallows his feelings away, as he looks over to the four year-old sleeping gracefully. Suddenly, life is simple. She breathes, he breathes, and there’s those who don’t. He looks at the world through the tinted windows and compares life to a train, and death is the stop you stay on when you miss the train in the morning. Yet the Sequoia’s gears shift into park and his dad is setting things down on the sidewalk. The bike rack takes in the sun, next to the shovel they used in the winter to break the ice off the tires, and a small red grill he once used at the marina. Then the hood of the car winks at him, at least that’s what it looks like since it’s bent in half. In only nine days there’s rust in the bent areas. In only nine days, after a checkup, the doctor didn’t find anything wrong with him.

         The car insurance deemed the vehicle a total loss. He learned that the day of the accident. He was in traffic. The air conditioner needed repairs, so the car was hot, even with the windows down and a/c on blast. He drove slowly, a few inches there and a few inches here, fighting sleep, yet he woke up to the bent hood, a tremor that fueled his rage and shook his hands as he looked for the insurance card. The paper trembled in his hands, and his voice broke when he looked out the window for the other driver. No driver, and no viable insurance card. A second later the driver appeared from around the truck. The driver left unharmed. 

         But he drove off in a frenzy, cursed himself, and parked under a tree. He waited on the curb for hours for the tow truck. With his head in his palms, his shaggy black hair covered his fingers.

         “Mijo, come help me with this.” His dad struggles to pull a fabric that holds all the cleaning supplies and fluids for the car. They pull it by the orange straps, and he sets it down in the trunk of the Sequoia. When he goes back, he sits in the passenger seat and rips off the religious pyramid from the gear shift. Its transparent features glimmer in the afternoon. He tears off the picture of Jesus from the visor, and his mom’s green rosary gently goes into his pocket. When he goes to the backseat, he takes the neck pillow, a blanket, and his old dog’s blue water bottle that he used whenever they’d go to the park. 

         When they finally finish, his dad and his uncle speak to the insurance guy about the car keys and license plates. “Don’t collect just yet,” says the insurance guy, but they already collected everything they needed. 

         He entertains the four year-old, holding her hand as she looks at the car with him. She walks to the front and traces the bent, rusted edges with her little index finger. As best as she can, she explains to him what happened to the car. “The car hit another car, and the – this part bent,” she says. He nods, and her innocence gives him a weak smile. “You should be more smarter,” she says again. He nods in agreement.

         He sees his uncle walk away, holding the cover of the steering wheel, and then observes his dad looking at the car, holding the keys, standing still for a short while. His dad steps to the insurance guy, returns the keys. When the footsteps go away from him, he stares at the car. The four year-old patters her feet away as well, and he still stares. Dollar signs, long work hours, and a lot of saving, is all he sees.

         “Hurry up. Or we’re leaving you,” the four year-old smiles before running off in her glittery pink shoes.

         What else is he going to leave behind? A memorable date to the beach? Sex in the backseat? The moving landscape on his drive home from a morning hike? A series of laughs and serious conversations with friends? Or with someone he fell in love with? Or the solitude of driving home alone at night after a nice, long smoke? He’ll leave it all behind. The car now can surely rest.

Joel Pazmiño is a LaGuardia alum, hoarder of books, and writer from Queens. When he’s not writing, he’s tending his garden or enjoying pick-up soccer. As a writer, he hopes to publish a collection of stories and copy-edit for other writers.

Image provided by author.