Friday, October 10, 2014

Nurse the Hate: Hate The Guilt

Guilt is a difficult emotion.  It is a consistent tug on your sleeve.  It is the muscle tension in your neck.  It is like a gloomy Monday morning.  A Catholic upbringing practically guarantees a lifetime of guilt and regret.  From my earliest years I had drilled into me from authority figures that if I found pleasure or joy in something, I must immediately become more pious to avoid an inevitable tumble into eternal damnation.  That’s a lot to drop onto a kid with a bad haircut and dirty shoes.  “You mean if I pick out all the marshmallows in that box of Lucky Charms, I am going to have a red hot wire coat hanger shoved up my penis hole by a scary looking demon forever?  Well, that seems a bit extreme, but you’re the Nun so you must know…”

There was no greater guilt than avoiding responsibility.  This is what is troubling me now.  I am feeling a crippling guilt that I have abandoned someone in need.  Making matters worse, there is no logical reason to feel this way.  Even as I prepare to type out this confession, I recognize the complete foolishness in my feelings.  Yet, I cannot ignore the emotion.  It is there.  I am hoping to unburden myself to you, the reader, and gain some sort of release from this shackle of guilt.  Let me begin…

A number of weeks ago Leo told the rest of us he was going to buy an old MG.  He found it like he finds almost all major purchases, he stumbled into a shoddy homemade sign as he drove down the street.  While most of America enters into a car purchase with careful consideration and lengthy information searches on the web, Leo drove by and decided “I will buy that.” Much as you or I would buy a bag of chips.  It is why the wild flapping arm inflatable is such a devastatingly effective marketing tool against Leo.  “Hey Lee!  Look over here!  It’s me, your friend here to tell you about a great cell phone deal!  Don’t read the contract!  Just sign the contract!  Only $68 a month FOREVER!!!”   The wild wacky flapping arm man will never steer you wrong Leo…

We were all skeptical at this car purchase decision.  Leo has a long and very well documented history of not taking care of anything he owns.  I could tell you the sad tale of the previous MG, towed away in disgrace one weekend afternoon a few years back.  There was the final doomed voyage of his shitty boat, the S.S. Snickers, which was finally left to rot away in his driveway as the seasons changed.  He owned a broken motorcycle that may have never run, even when fresh off the factory assembly line.  There was “the People’s Porsche” that did not run, and then finally sold for pennies on the dollar to a stranger on the phone.  When the buyer arrived, he opened the hood, wiggled a few wires, and drove off in the car that had not run for Leo past the day he purchased it.  In summation, there is no doubt on the final end of any recreation vehicle that enters Leo’s Doomed Driveway.

Of course, he bought the MG in a complicated transaction that involves him putting in a floor in the seller’s house and probably some other tasks to which he has only a basic understanding.  “Leo?  Are you sure there are supposed to be sparks coming out of the hot water tank?”  Translation?  It was his kind of deal.  We arrived for practice one night and he proudly proclaimed his ownership of the MG.  I think it’s from the late 60s, a rare hard top.  It really is an interesting car.  It is in decent shape, but needs some cosmetic work along the lines of some trim, work on a quarter panel, etc.  We all did that move that guys do while looking at a car by standing back at it and leaning our heads back as if that angle would allow greater perspective.  While not breaking eye contact from the car, Gary asked, “Does it run?”.  Leo was quick to reply, “Dude!  It totally runs!  All I need is a new battery and..” 

Leo appears to be oblivious to the fact that for a car “to run”, it would signify that the owner would hop into the vehicle, turn the key, and roar off down the road confidently.  A car that “runs” does not require to be determined number of visits to an auto parts store prior to driving down the highway.  But let’s leave that alone for a moment.  I cannot explain why, but I felt protective of that car, like it was a person.  I think it was because my earliest memories of cars as a child were of being beaten down by the wind as a passenger in my father’s MG Sprite.  To give insight on how much has changed in our litigation fueled fear dominated America, I must have been 3 or 4 with no car seat in sight whipping down the highway wedged into whatever area is available behind the seats of that car.  The 1970s were a Golden Age.  No car seat, yet here I stand to tell the tale.

I circled the MG.  I thought to myself, “This poor thing has spent 40+ years proudly doing its work.  How unfair to befall a fate like this… A long slow deterioration sitting exposed to the elements in this driveway.  These little fixes could be made.  This car could be stored under a tarp, and then allowed to spread its wings on days of glorious sunshine.  It needs care.  It needs a watchful eye.”  I felt a sense of alarm at what I knew would happen to this proud car.  Despite whatever empty promises made by Leo to “get that part” or “fix the side”, I knew nothing would happen.  It was like rolling a patient into hospice and cutting off their hydration, allowing them to die slowly as onlookers noted the unavoidable cruel end.

As I walked down the driveway, I said to Leo “You can’t leave it out like this.  It will rot out from underneath.  You are at least putting it into the garage right?”  Oh yeah… yeah…  His garage, currently filled with abandoned home repair projects and scraps from various jobs, would need to be organized.  I knew it would never happen.  Ever.  Like the rolled up carpet from our practice space, it would remain in stasis for the forseeable future.  I turned to look back at the car once again, worried for it.  I felt like I was leaving a six year old child alone at Bonnaroo. 

It is ridiculous to project these types of feelings on an automobile.  I recognize that in reality it is no different than throwing away a can of tuna or a lamp.  It is a thing.  He could have just as easily stacked aluminum siding in his driveway (which would also be as effective in transporting him as that car ever will be).  I don’t know if it is some unresolved feelings I have somehow tied into my father or my childhood.  If I leave that car to die in Leo’s driveway, is it if I have left my childhood to die?  Is it like leaving my infirmed father out in the rain?  Is this the guilt?  How can I allow myself to be free of the responsibility of the death of that car?

Now two months later, the car sits untouched.  The garage door is closed, no movement of the various garbage inside the potential car storage area.  Winter is approaching, in more ways than one.  I think I need to recognize that when that car was sent off to Leo’s house, it was already marked for death.  When the previous owner made that deal, the die had been cast.  He was the one that sent the MG to the dungeon.  The best I can do is hope it dies a quick death, sold off for scrap for a soon-to-be-broken drill or erratic washing machine. 

When I go over to practice, I can’t even look in the driveway.  I stare straight ahead to the porch, festooned with an old entertainment center with a handwritten “For Sale” sign, weeds growing around the foundation of the home.  The key is to get inside quickly, avoiding glancing down the length of the house and see the fading paint of the MG.  Just think of something else.  Anything else.    


At October 16, 2014 at 5:48:00 PM EDT , Blogger AZ said...

I feel and appreciate your pain . . . and Leo's life.


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