Secret Pop

Jul 10, 2004

"Your mind is fancy."

I have been wrung a bit today. I woke up way early and took my car in for scheduled maintenance and a recent air conditioning issue. And I ended up paying $1755. Seventeen hundred and fifty-five dollars. And change. $1755! That's rent for some people. A house payment. That's minor elective surgery. In certain countries, that's enough to feed a boy and his village for several years. And build a university in his name. That's a lot of potatoes.

And it hurt. I'm strapped, and I hate it. But I tried to look at the bright side. The bright side being that I can come up with the dough. There was a time when I would have just had to say, "Sorry. I'll just have to take my chances with the timing belt and the rear brakes." I would have had to go without air conditioning. I would have had to tell them not even to bother with the oil change. I would have had to look into my car's eyes with a mixture of shame and sadness and inform it that I was going to have to sell it to a lab for medical experiments. I would have had to explore public transit. And public transit is a pee factory. So I am grateful that I am no longer in that part of my calendar. And at the same time, I hate how much it hurts to deal with all that is real. It's just not nearly as much fun as I would like to pretend it ever could be.

Also on the bright side is the fact that occasionally, a bartender knows me well enough to make sure my glass is never empty and likes me well enough to say that that last one was on him. It seems like something out of the movies. Maybe that's why it makes such a difference.

When I got the call from the service center, Willie said, "Are you sitting down?" And I thought, " I don't find that funny." I don't think that my having to spend this gargantuan sum merits the employment of a tired cliche. I was, in fact, lying down. In a bed I'm not used to. But the reclined position did nothing to soften the blow of the estimate he gave me. Do people really faint when you deliver bad news? Does that ever happen? Don't you have to be a bit of a drama queen to go weak in the knees when your mechanic calls and tells you the water pump can't be saved? I'm no drama queen. And yet I'd have to be a queen of some sort for the $1755 tab to not have made a difference to me. I'd have said, "Please, my good man. Don't be vulgar. You needn't read the figures to my highness. I have a staff for that." And then I would tell Rita, my secretary (who curiously happened to be male), to liquidate one of the rubies to cover the cost of the repairs. I'm fonder of emeralds anyway.

I was anxious and uncomfortable from the moment I woke up. I had unhappy dreams. I waited for phone calls that did not come. I answered calls that I wish I'd missed. I took surprising comfort from talking to my mom. And I wished that I had been smarter about so many things. But that's nothing new. And nothing ever is.

The guy who gave me a ride from the car shop told me about the hard knocks he's been enduring. His lady of four years left him for some dude named Paul. But she still yanks his chain. I was a patient and compassionate advisor, but the ride home was brief, and I'm no shining example of choosing what is right and smart and healing. But it's always easier to give advice than to choose. Especially when you're dealing with a relative stranger. It's not like he'll ever know what a fool I was. And maybe I was enough of a fool that someone hearing of the tale would find me pathetically endearing. An adorable muffin with a smiling dimple and a cheerful disposition. Sometimes -- and I almost never believe this -- it's easier for girls.

Paying for car repairs is a very grown-up thing. Maybe that's why I want to kill it with a stick. I like going for ice cream and getting toys out of the machine with the grasping claw thing (hopefully a temporary tattoo!). I like individually wrapped snacks. I like passing notes back and forth and buying make-up and staying out until everything is closed. I like hot dogs. I can be a right grown-up when I want to be, but I will only ever be the sort of grown-up who glares at you when you ask me if I know what's REALLY in a hot dog. Don't imagine that you could ever list an ingredient that would alter my course when I'm headed to the hot dog stand. I'm Chinese, for Pete's sake. Pig lips and beef toe sound good to me. That's a good tip for you if you want to avoid having me tell my closest friends what a jerk you are: Don't get in the habit of telling me what's good for me. I already know, and I'm not interested.

My finger hurts. And I can't keep track of what day of the week it's been. Tomorrow is the last night of my show. I will put some extra stink on that vibrato, in case anyone's listening. It's going to rule.

Your mouth is everywhere. I'm lying in it.

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