Messing With The Settings

It was a funny way to start an evening. Redness in the western sky and fall air on the breeze. The harbour smelled of sea air and human shit. I tripped over a homeless man and tipped him for his trouble.

Who goes to a bakery on a first date? Who puts a bakery fifty feet from the waterline of a harbour that houses everything from fecal matter to fishing boats? Unhinged behaviour in what was a foul year, two thousand and eleven. It feels wrong that it was eleven years ago. It feels wrong that more than a decade has passed me by and I barely noticed.

She smelled like aluminum free deodorant and said things loaded with assumptions. We walked around and she was very angry about the whole thing. About the cool air and the alignment of the stars and how I dressed. She asked questions that she already knew the answers to and wore her hair short and tight. I was driving a 2000 Intrepid at the time.

That car had a funny feature. The four ordinary brake lines ran into a junction box featuring yet six more lines. One night myself and a dear friend were driving home from a movie and one of those six lines ruptured. By the time I was nearly home — stopping with the handbrake and very little in the way of confidence — the car would only stop when I shifted to park. We made it home and he and I laugh about it later. It was the most scared I had ever been up to that point in my life. From a certain perspective it is the most scared I will ever have been.

She wanted to know my plans and I told her I worked in banking and she hated that about me. Her eyes were brown but flashed red when I sent signals from my brain to cause my vocal chords to produce sounds. She wore a dress in my memory but more likely she wore something else. A white dress with red flowers comes to mind and yet I do not trust the memory.

I loved that car. I helped my dad pay for a new transmission when that went out. But the brakes were the death stroke. They do not make these anymore is what the man told me. It is part of the reason you see so few of them the man told me. I smoked my first cigarette in that car. Had my first car accident in it. I gave the guy a fake number and took off. There was no damage to either car. Just a little nudge rolling forward at a red light when I was seventeen thinking only of the young lady next to me.

She said banking was an evil industry and I agreed. I suppose, I told her, that on some level we all have to compromise given that having high minded ideals and no work ethic pays very poorly. She thought this was a joke and laughed. I felt uneasy. We had wandered as far as Duckworth which was at that particular point in time a half hours walk from my car. I was ready to head home when she invited me to the house she shared with three other people. I learned this piece of information upon arriving at the house. One guy was tuning a bass guitar and drinking something mud coloured. One woman was leafing through a book while drinking something mud coloured. Another person was absent but notably so. Them having not been there always struck me as a problem. And yet. I never learned why.

I would drive that car for hours. Gas was cheaper then. I had a full time job and lived at home so my pay was traded for drink and gas and cigarettes. I was cutting class to go to work. Throwing away my chances at higher education a little bit every day. When the car did lead me to campus I mostly sat around and smoked while talking to the stoners about some amateurish philosophy text. Back then it felt so profound. Just eleven years and it feels so childish. That car was all that mattered to me because my father had driven it for years and now I drove it and it made me smile to drive it.

She asked me to go upstairs with her which I took as menace. She had hissed and snarled at my very existence. I felt this was surely a trap to lead me to a pit of snakes or some obscure translation of late life Camus. Instead she pulled out a pipe and blew weed smoke at me. Suddenly softer. All the body language of someone who was surely about to make a mistake. I feigned a phone call and left. I walked down the stairs and noted the continued absence of the third person. Perhaps I misheard. Perhaps they were simply hiding. The house and its décor screamed acid induced fever dream. Built in the 1910s and renovated as recently as the 1910s. Furniture that screamed my man is in a new band so we will be eating bread and spaghetti-o's for the next month.

We took the car to a scrapyard. We had it dismantled for parts. Later I would drive other cars. Later I would crash a car. Later I would learn how to change oil and refuse to ever do it myself. Later the hour would feel so late. I miss that car and all the memories she held. My memory is a funny thing. It works but only in bursts. I can remember how the brake lines worked but not precisely which year they stopped working. I can remember a one off first date with a woman I never saw again down to the fact she put the milk in before the sugar in her coffee. Which is an insane thing to do by the way. I have no idea what her name is. No idea what her face looked like. The details are clear but the setting is guesswork.

I guess my mind was already gone. Some part of me wanted to be the family man. The reliable man. Another part of me wanted to chase whatever dreams a young man of my temperament had. Writing and drinking and faking my way through conversations I had neither the intellect nor the experience to keep up with. I guess that young woman vanished later. I said I would call. She said she would look forward to it. I never called. She never looked forward to it. My brain was so scrambled in those years. My mind was in knots. Yearning for something but feeling unsatisfied with everything in my life. Kicking the tires on a new disaster every other evening. Draining pint glasses and letting waitresses pity me for an extra five percent on the tip. Messing with the settings and trying to point myself in the direction I needed to go.


All these years later and I am only now learning lessons of love and trust. I saw her one day at work and knew. She had always been there and I had only just seen her. I stuck it out in banking and it has finally paid off. I have three beautiful children and I do not give a fuck about what car I drive.

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