I arrived home late one evening to find a pretty car parked in my driveway. Really, really pretty. Not a red convertible Mustang that I’ve long coveted, but a pristine, 1960 something-or-other that looked like an old taxi, but shiny and new looking, turquoise and white. For Sale signs perched in the side and back windows. That’s how I knew it was a 1960 something-or-other.
I had several simultaneous thoughts:
1. What freaking idiot (to use a favored family term) parked in my driveway?
2. @#$%^&! The Man I Married has got some dork band mate or beer mate or most likely beer-band mate in his Barage again, and MIM should have known better than to let him—definitely a him—block my parking spot.
3. Oh My God, The Man I Married bought me a car for Christmas!
The For Sale signs that he’d left in the window were his clear hint to me that, yes, he had on a whim bought a gorgeous, quirky car, “For gorgeous, quirky you,” he would murmur as he handed me the key. The car reminded me of Fran Lebowitz’s taxicab, squat and rounded—sort of like me, too. I did wear turquoise eyeshadow in 1976. MIM knew that I adored Fran and her cab. Wow, he’d hit it out of the park on this one.
I parked my 1999 Honda across the street (@#$%!) and knocked on the Barage to rustle up possible owner of car, not quite believing Suspicion #3, because any car that MIM bought me would probably look like this:
Not out of mean-heartedness, but because to MIM the car would look exactly like this:
He would see no difference between the potential and the reality. When you find yourself married to a personality trait like this, it’s sometimes like living with Jesus and sometimes Marilyn Manson–depending on the day, it can be inspiring or migraine-inducing.
In response to my rapping like the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Barage was dark and silent. So I let myself into the quiet house.
Now, I hadn’t had the easiest time that evening. I’d gone to an educational event that turned out to be a Drink the Grape Kool-Aid-type Sales Pitch that was so over the top I’d feared I’d been suckered into a cult indoctrination–the kind where they lock the doors and won’t let you go to the bathroom. But I managed to escape early with nobody tackling me, and I even snagged a free bag of chips, which I munched on the way home since I’d also had no time for dinner.
I wanted to get home before MIM went to bed, so that I wouldn’t have to bumble around the bedroom in the dark, trying to find all of those accoutrements so necessary for sleep once one reaches middle age—earplugs, meds, wrist-braces, heated mattress pad switch—and I also wanted to be able to see the thermometer, to ensure that MIM and I had reached our Compromise Room Temperature. Since I liked the room about twenty degrees hotter than he did, the compromise was that he was ten degrees too hot and I was ten degrees too cold. The truth is that MIM has no idea what the Compromise Room Temp is, because if he did, it would just lead to another argument.
On my drive home, I took 80th Avenue, which is a major east-west thoroughfare with just one lane in each direction. It used to be a minor neighborhood street, but now suffers from constant, heavy traffic in front of the nice old homes and the church on every block (the law here used to mandate one church for every bar, so my neighborhood has one heck of a lot of churches–I’d really like to try out the Chinese Evangelical Church one day).
Doh! My west-bound lane was closed for half a block due to construction, and in the wisdom of the Seattle Department of Transportation, they left no guide for drivers. No flagman, no helpful hint, no nothing.
Which resulted in a game of Chicken. Like in Grease. Or was it Footloose? Except instead of cute actors with big hair and sewn-on pants, it was people like me (see above references to middleaged, squat, round), or the mother in front of me. The two cars in front of her had peeled off to the left to try a side street (not using their blinker), but the mother in front of me decided to sit. And wait. For the entire length of the lane to be clear so that she could creep up the wrong side of the street. She waited. And waited.
This situation is (waited) when I most love to exercise (still waiting) my vocabulary: in the car, when I’m mad (waiting), and the Little Monster isn’t with me. Better than therapy. Except that I’m mad.
But we are in Seattle, so one must not use the horn. No, not ever. You would be water-boarded with homebrew by the polite denizens if you honked.
On our cross-country drive this summer, we drove through Nowhere, Montana to find one lane closed on a highway. They’d hired no flag person to stand in the hot sun all day directing traffic. They had simply erected temporary, timed traffic lights, so that traffic headed in opposite directions took turns in the lane. We thought that was one of the neatest things in our entire 3,000-mile trip. If they could manage that in the middle of nowhere, why couldn’t Seattle get its act together?
I finally managed to squeeze around the mother’s (waiting) car to turn right, which turned out to be a dead end.
So I wasn’t in the best of moods to find my driveway occupied, and I continued to not be in the best of moods to find that despite my risking Trial by Ordeal to escape the cult indoctrination in order to get home before lights out, MIM was already sacked out in the dark.
To his credit, he did leave the porch light on for me, which is not usually the case.
To my lack of credit, I woke him up. “Did you buy me a car?” I asked the inert form under the blankets. Seriously, would you be able to wait until morning to know the answer? But to my credit, he wakes me up all the time, not on purpose, but because he’s just a noisy kind of guy. While I usually am quiet as a gerbil if I know he’s sleeping (which is a lot).
He sat upright in bed, splurting and sputtering. “I was asleep.”
“There’s a car in the driveway. A really pretty old car. I thought maybe you bought it for me.”
“I was asleep! No, I didn’t buy you a car.”
Though he clearly hadn’t bought me the car and wasn’t faking lack of knowledge to string along the suspense, I was hoping he would get up to look at the car. First, even 90% asleep, not being able to see straight because he’s so mad at his wife, and looking from a bright house out to the dark driveway, he would be able to identify the Make, Model, and Serial Number. When cars whip past us on the freeway, I see “green car,” but he sees “1966 Ford Galaxy.” When I ask how he knows, he’ll say, “Because of the grill.” Or the taillights. Or the fins. Or the real kicker, “Just the shape.” This from a man who doesn’t notice he’s been standing in six inches of water every time he takes a shower because the drain’s been slow for the past month. This is another one of those Jesus/Manson character traits. He doesn’t notice his wife’s new haircut, but he also doesn’t notice her ten-pound weight gain or the 47 books I have spread all over the house because I’m in the middle of reading all of them.
Second, once identifying the car, he’d think it was pretty neat, too.
And then he’d buy it for me.
He went right back to sleep. Lying next to him in the dark later, I heard the engine fire up–an unmistakable old car sound–and listened to it driving away.
The next morning I apologized for waking him up. “I thought you’d bought me a new car,” I added.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry I didn’t buy you a car. I’m really sorry.”
Sorry, I understood by his expression and sincerity, that he would never be a man who would surprise me with a car. And sorry that I would always be a woman who hoped he might.