Duwayne

So I still think of Lua-Vanessa Aspasia Himmelblau as the new car, despite the fact she’s old enough to be in fourth grade (fifth, if like me she were a precocious little shit). It should not have come as a surprise when I walked out into the driveway, turned the key in the ignition and got nothing but a solenoid click, given that she’s still equipped with the original battery.

This is how I met Duwayne.

Dead batteries were pretty high on my list of Things I Don’t Need. I go across town in less than a week to get a fork stuck in my eye, my accountant is working on my taxes and will ask me lots of questions I can’t answer, the washing machine has just started dumping water on the floor the way the last repairman said it eventually would.

But you know, Duwayne was real.

He pulled up in front of the house in a truck gay with the purple and turquoise livery of my dealership’s preferred towing company, making light of the task of getting Lua backed out of a downsloping driveway at an hour when I’m usually not even coherent. This is craftsmanship. I learned to appreciate it when I got becalmed with my Albino Ex in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire on what should have been a pleasant May weekend and found myself (1) facing into a raw, damp gale (2) with a rental car too big for me to drive (3) with a cold that owed something to that February’s Taiwanese flu (4) on the scene of a regional tow truck convention. I gained a respect for people who drive those mo’fos, and explained to him.

This made Duwayne my friend. We bonded even more quickly when I remarked that Siri had been smoking something and that the traffic evasion pattern she recommended to the dealership, weaving preposterously through twisty side streets, was bullshit and I could get him there with a single 90-degree right hand turn.

‘Preciated it, he said. Didn’t enjoy having to torque his rig through a hamster Habitrail. “Had a guy with a Jeep Cherokee, down in one of those underground lots, I asked if he could crawl it out and he said no, it was all tore up, and I thought it’d be a wreck and he just had the front bumper stove in…”

“Fuck,” I said, “I drove this baby to a body shop with the whole bumper cover in the hatch…”

“And I had this guy with a Tesla, so freaked out it might get a scratch, and he gets in the cab and its seventy five degrees out in the middle of November and he’s brrr brrr brr close the window and I shouldntna but I asked You got a girlfriend? and he says hah? no and I say figures, son, you got issues — “

“Metrosexual,” I said. “Also, lots of entitled people around here. Dad was a Master Sergeant, I didn’t get that gene.”

We were now drinking buddies and it was barely eight-thirty in the morning. I was carrying my Alpine walking poles, so I could hoof it back from the dealership, now that I can (“Three miles?” he goggled. I don’t know why that surprises people). Explained about the year-old, almost-broken-in titanium hips and being a gym rat. Found out that he came close to boxing Golden Gloves, had to change course when his dad got sick and he needed to run the family business, but it came in handy when his girlfriend’s abusive ex came calling. “He was one a those big steroid guys with the swole up arms, you know?” (Maneuvering the truck, and Lua, onto the dealer’s lot down a ticklish slope, with a guy in coveralls practically breakdancing to show us where to go.) “Went down on the second punch. I ast her ‘You teach him that position? Face down, butt up?’ ”

Duwayne is just my kind of guy.

The car needed a new battery, a brake line flush, tire rotation and fuel injector cleaning. My wallet feels very clean, too. At least she had the grace to swoon before I face the fork.

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