Idling in October

Michelle Oakes

I hate driving. I think the freeway must be Hell, and I intend not to go there. That said, I can happily reflect that the adversarial nature of my relationship with Houston's roads and drivers is entirely out of keeping with all other relationships I've formed since I've been here. I have already forgiven the weather. This morning my mechanic told me that my car needs to re-learn how to idle. It died yesterday at the light on Westheimer and Commonwealth, almost directly across the street from Lightbulbs Unlimited, a store I've yet to enter that I recently destroyed in a poem. I flew a little white car through its brightly lit front windows. It was 7:13 am, and I wondered for a minute if the universe meant to expand my understanding of karma or irony or something. But practical matters necessarily redirected me, and after a couple of frantic phone-calls I was standing in the small strip of lobby at RMS Auto, handing over my keys and authorizing Jeff, the owner, to perform a battery-and-alternator-ectomy/transplant. The operation took less than two hours, and though it was a complete success, my poor Mazda 3 needs time to forget the trauma. It growls and bucks at every stop-light. Jeff said it might take 300 miles to reconcile itself with its new parts. October is the cruelest month. People are thinking of Christmas. Last week I asked my Freshmen to read aloud from the textbook, and they tacitly agreed to omit everything inside parentheses. I was disturbed and intrigued and realized too late that I should have corrected them. I love it here. What I mean to say is, Thank You All for making me feel so welcome. I came to Houston on June 26th and made my first new friends two days later. I went with some of them to the 4th of July celebration at Hermann Park, where an astronaut sang us a song and the orchestra accompanied a lot of painful cannons to the tune of the 1812 Overture. Then there was school, and coffees, and beers. Dance Dance and Such. And now we are facing a convergence of not one, not two, but three parties. Hallelujah! Let us gather and idle together.

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