When I delivered pizzas I ran into a lot of interesting situations and met a lot of interesting people. I was held at gunpoint twice, broke up a dog fight, and had women cry in my arms. One night, I was delivering to a factory not too far from our store, it was 10:30 and we closed at midnight. I always hated delivering to this factory in general because the door was locked to the break room, and sometimes no one was in there, and then if that was the case the customer would hardly ever answer the phone, so it leaves you, alone in the dark, wondering if you should stay or wait or just go back. Luckily this time the person was waiting outside and had already paid, so all they had to do was sign. I jumped in my car and turned out of the factory, King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard bursting through the speakers. As I made my way down the street all the factories were on, I heard a bursting noise and felt my car lower on one side, I pressed the gas and just went slower, but willed my car to make it to the nearest gas station.
I had been ignoring my tire pressure light for some time so I wasn't super surprised, but i was in a compromising situation. Despite my usual act of, “I'm an independent badass babe” I do not know how to change a tire. My phone rang, as I called the store to talk to my manager, he was fairly new and fairly young, and shocked I didn't know how to change a tire
“Just ask someone who doesn't look too scary, maybe like a Morgan Freeman type, or some dad.” But this was RaceTrack. This particular RaceTrack was on a busier side of town, right of the interstate, and home to most of the homeless people in town. My manager was still on the phone while I sought after a person.
“No not him, he probably just thinks you're cute and will try to score, you're working.”
“It's ok, i'll find someone else, Thank you though.”
I ran around asking people and getting turned down, but someone did give me a dollar. Standing by my car, hopeless, I contemplated calling my father, but maybe that guy in the sensible Honda Senata could help. “Hey, Uh, Sir, can you help me change my tire?” I Pointed to my car under the lamppost, looking like he was melting into the ground, with my car topper lit up on the top.
He sighed “Hold on kid” and he slid into the gas station. I hung up on my manager and texted my sister my location just in case. The guy walked out with a bag in hand “Want a Twinkie?” We both started walking to my car.
“No thank you, I’m ok.”
“Too good for Twinkies huh”
“Nah, too good for gluten. Can you change a tire?”
“I defused bombs in the military for nine years, I would hope so.” He kind of laughed to himself and bit into the processed pastry.
I lifted the trunk of my hatch back, clothes and weird pieces of metal and wood layed in a pile “I'm sorry about the mess, I’m an art major and I basically live In my car” I shoved the junk up so he could grab the tools and spare underneath.
“I learned in life not to judge people by their clutter, but by their vocabulary.” He struggled with the spare for a second but jiggled a latch underneath pulling the tire from under my car into his arms.
I laughed to myself “What do you do now since you are out of the military, besides change pizza girls tires and go to gas stations to get Twinkies but not gas.” I sat on the curb next to him as he began to change my tire.
He looked forward to the tire while he spoke “My dad contracted cancer so I came back to this town, I got a job at a phone company. It pays ok but it does nothing to stimulate my mind, to make me feel like a person.”
I sighed “Isn’t that everyone, isn’t it all meaningless, or we have to build meaning, or rely on vices to cope.”
“More or less, but doing something rewarding kind of makes it better, livable, but sometimes you’re here. You are in a town you swore to yourself you would never return, you do a job that makes you feel as needed and as intelligent as a loaf of bread. And because of that you drink a bottle of whiskey naked in the dark, in your office in the house you bought thats too big, and in the town you never wanted to go back to, and sometimes you find clarity in that moment.” He detached the tire from my car, and put the spare in his place.
“But, you have the choice to be dark about something, but maybe negative is more exciting sometimes. Sitting clothed and happy in your office isn’t as good as sad and naked and drunk. But it doesn’t have to be either. It can be a pure neutral where you let life push you around and make the designs, and then you can’t be upset, no one let this happen, it just happened. And while maybe you don’t choose to do this you don’t have to accept the situations that come your way society just tells us to.”
He laughed to himself again putting in the last bolt. “How lucky oh me to get stuck with an art student. You have a point kid, but maybe I like drinking alone in my pointless big house, maybe I like complaining to random young adults.” He stood up and extended his hand "Im Brian by the way”
I shook it standing up as well “I'm Emily, do you want me to pay you or something? Buy you some more Twinkies?”
He Put the spare in my trunk “ No that's ok, I've been in a lot of situations, but I’ve never been a young girl in the middle of the night at a gas station putting my life in some stranger's hand to fix my car, it's on me, thanks for the talk.”
I thanked him as well and watched him drive away, and then sat into my car thinking about how we would never cross paths again, but how he needed me just as much as I needed him.