by Rosko Tzolov
I was trying to sell my jalopy
|“How about the tires, are they new?” the father, a sixty-year-old man, asked.
“Ah, they are alright, almost new, very preserved,” I lied. I don’t know if he heard me. It was very noisy in the car. All of the windows were pulled down, so there was air circulating in and out of the inside, I was also wearing a mask which muffled my voice. It was the middle of a coronavirus epidemic after all. We were driving through the dense intersection of streets on the West Side of B., in a cold, gloomy, cloudy Tuesday in October. I was freezing in the back seat of the Lancer. The girl – a twenty-year-old blonde was driving somewhat recklessly, struggling with the manual gear, although I felt that it was particularly because of it she had answered the advertisement for the sale of my old Mitsubishi. She was a student at the university in the town, she’d said. The Lancer was a perfect car for her. It would keep going for a year, maybe a couple, but most likely not. Anyway, I was selling it for just $800.
The young woman behind the wheel seemed that was deliberately hitting the potholes and the uneven spots on the road. I was worried that a shock will go through the chassis or the engine will fall off – the bottom of the car was very rusty.
“How old is the car?” the father asked as if I had not told him already numerous times.
“Eh, it’s not in a bad condition.”
“Hmm...” he uttered.
We had introduced each to each but as usual, I had fast forgotten their names. It didn’t matter. I didn’t have to know their names to sell them the old jalopy.
“Does it burn a lot of gas?” The man asked, after looking at the fuel meter where the light next to the Empty sign was on. Principally I never put too much fuel because there was a gasket that was leaking and the gas was dripping, but now I had forgotten to put fuel at all, and any moment we could end up stranded in the middle of the road. Otherwise, the car was burning a lot of fuel – the engine was in bad shape, it was burning oil as well and I had to add to it from time to time.
“Ah, burning...it’s a small car. Economic.“ - that geezer was getting on my nerves. What’s up with the thousand questions, I wondered. It was obvious that I was selling the car for cheap because it was a jalopy. I would have explained to him everything honestly about its problems but he was dishonest. He asked questions the answers to which he already knew, just so he can sabotage the deal. If it was up to the girl the deal would have already been done – it was clear that she liked the little, gray Lancer. I would have told her what kind of repairs she needed to do in order to keep the car working for a while, but that geezer was picking a fight. I was lying for the sport but it seemed that those lies didn’t amount to much anyway.
One way or the other I wouldn’t be able to sell the car so I decided to relax. I sank in the back seat, wrapping myself in my jacket. It felt strange to ride in the back seat. There was plenty of room in spite of the small coupe. I felt like I was observing myself from outside – I had been very tense. Why was it so important to sell the car for $800, so that I have to lie like that? I would make it without the money. Wasn’t this world full of liars that it needed another one – me. If it was only the girl I would have given her the car for free at that moment, I felt so moved by my own thoughts, but that old geezer – out of spite I wouldn’t give him the Lancer even with a small discount.
"Winter is coming - you need good tires," the man said, presently.
“The tires are OK,” I said quietly from the back.
Although the girl in the driver’s seat was driving quite fast, I relaxed in the back and as many other times these days, felt like meditating. I was engulfed by a calmness, warmth. I looked out of the car. So many things were going on out there. We were passing fast by buildings, buildings and intersections, people with dogs or just people – pedestrians and bicyclists; passing by cars on the street. So many fates, each one hurries for somewhere, I thought then or it was only us. We passed by a black guy sitting on the curb, smoking. Our eyes met as we passed him by with wild speed. Some form of connection appeared between us. Both him and I were observers in that crazy whirl of motion, we were like pylons of tranquility in the middle of the hurricane. Looking at him smoking so calmly, I wished for a cigarette, although I am not a smoker. I thought that if I was driving I would have pulled over and asked him for a cigarette. We would have talked like friends, not like some enemies, as I talked with the geezer on the front seat. I would be honest. I would be myself. I would ask him what he thinks of the Covid-19, staying six feet apart and when it will pass and will it even ever or something nastier will come. I would ask him how will we survive that capitalism. Crisis after crisis, each one worse than the one before – will everything break apart in the end. Is he feeling well? Are the people in B. racists? Do they treat him badly because of the color of his skin - actually I knew the answer to that question. What does he think of our president? That guy seemed so wise, sitting there on the curb. He would surely know about all these things I would ask him and he would give me good, sensible answers. We would talk soul to soul and not like with that geezer – I lie to him, he - me, it only hurts my soul because of it.
“Drive slower” it seemed as if the father said to the girl. I was far, somewhere far away from the car to hear him well, I was on a strange journey within myself. We were passing by buildings, cars, and people. Why should I care about the buildings and cars? I cared about people. The society – isn’t the treasure of the society the people that build it, not buildings and cars and money these cars can be sold for. Here we are, ready to get each other by the throat for a jalopy. Let them have it – I thought. I decided that I will give it to them for free. We needed to help each other, push each other up, not dragging each other down. This rubbish Lancer didn’t deserve my lies. I didn’t care if I lied as long as I lied about something about I cared.
“See how it slides in the corners, its tires are worn out, “ the father said, the car indeed slid in a turn, he shouted something and we drove directly against a pickup truck. There was a scream and then a crash. Dull thump. For a second I lost conscience. When I came to my senses, my ears were ringing and my head hurt. I had hit the back of the front seat. I touched my face – there wasn’t any blood. I tried to examine my neck – it wasn’t hurting. I open the door. The car was pretty badly smashed and the motor was hissing quietly, letting out some steam from the punctured radiator. The girl on the front seat was fighting the airbag which had deployed. I told her loud so she can hear me,
“Don’t move your head. Look ahead. - she listened and leaned back on the seat. The driver of the pickup truck got out. He was shouting,
“Idiots! She got into my lane, the little bitch...”
I left him shouting and went to the other side of the Lancer. The geezer had hit his head badly in the column of the car and was bleeding.
“Don’t move your head! Lean backward. Don’t get out – wait for the ambulance!" I said.
The other driver shouted a bit more than started inspecting with a sad face his truck - which was badly damaged. I was again observing myself from a third-person perspective – in the middle of the scene, my car radiator steaming, the two in the Lancer looking scared forward and a crowd starting gathering around. The black guy who I’d seen before appeared. He approached, took off his mask, and used it as a gauze on the geezer’s wound. I don’t know if that was the smartest thing to do but it was some solution. It wasn’t long ago before the ambulance came. They took the father and the daughter and I and the other driver waited for the next ambulance. They even turned on the siren when they were giving us a ride to the hospital.
There were a lot of people in masks were in the ER waiting to be examined, looking at each other with suspicion. I had a CAT scan done then a nurse told me that I can go. I also spoke to the police officers and I told them what happened as far as I could remember. Then I took a cab and got home. It was at dusk, getting dark. I felt very cold suddenly. I had been feeling cold for a while but I had blocked it till now. I also felt very tired. I thought that now the geezer would pay me the $800 for the Lancer. After all, it was his daughter who caused the crash. What was more important, I hoped the girl and her father were alright, even though they might not pay for the crashed car.
I looked down the street, which disappeared in the darkness, for the last time then got into my apartment.