Sometimes, not often, I think I should take a long, hard look at myself, or at least a passing glance, not so much to identify any of the basic failings which have recently led to losing my family and living alone at an anxious, brittle age, but more to look ahead, and set about doing something to change my ways, sort myself out, become a better person. It's a half-hearted resolution and I duly made a half-hearted attempt to see a counsellor.
A nice woman sent me a letter saying she liked something I wrote; she mentioned she was a therapist, and I replied saying thank you and by the way PLEASE HELP. She recommended a few people. I went online and studied their empathetic faces. The prospect of looking across at them in a quiet office gave me the creeps and anyway I don't want to identify any of my basic failings. The past is another disaster. I want to move on. Move somewhere. Just move.
I've wondered for six or seven seconds about leaving town. I've wondered for two
or three seconds about attending church. All acts of madness have their
virtues and I appreciated that the two ideas shared the same impulse: escape. But they were never going to happen. I'm too old for God or Invercargill.
Life muddles on. It's nice to cling to the things you're familiar with, stick to the same routines, take the road most travelled. I walked to the supermarket on Sunday night and had every intention of following the same exact path I always take but on a whim I cut through a walkway and came out on to the main road where I immediately caught sight of something that got my full attention and made me wholeheartedly think it might be the vehicle to change my ways, sort myself out, become a better person.
The vehicle was a vehicle. Two cars, in fact, parked on the street, one in front of the other, both for sale. One was long and one was short. One was tan and one was white. I thought: those white ones go fast. I know nothing about cars on account of not being able to drive. I walk the road most travelled. I go nowhere, slowly; everyone else has somewhere to go, places to be, and arrives there quickly. In a world of speed and achievement, I dither on the footpath, an island of incompetence. Not being able to drive has done wonders for my feelings of self-worth. I feel kind of worthless.
A big cardboard sign was stuck in the windscreen of the white car. It read: $2000. I could scare up two thousand. I could own that car. I could maybe possibly even learn to drive it. A smaller sign was taped to the back window. It read like a haiku.
everything working fine
Towards the end of last year I travelled to Dunedin, where my friend Shayne gave me driving lessons for two whole days. I drove around Dunedin's port, also in Mosgiel, and in Aramoana, where Shayne lived in a small house with bunkbeds. He took the bottom bunk and I climbed on to the top bunk and slept very heavily - God it was exciting to successfully drive a car for the first time in my life, and also really exhausting. I felt wiped out. Part of it was tension and part of it was I ended each day close to tears. It was as though I was saying goodbye to someone I thought I knew my whole life: someone incompetent, someone stationary. Driving had altered everything. I didn't know myself, and that's the point of wanting to own that white car and drive it. I'd be a different person. I'd move on. I'd move somewhere. I'd really move.
Supermarket shopping on a Sunday night is among the most dismal urban experiences on offer but I felt like an explorer on the verge of a great discovery. I got my supplies. Other shoppers headed out to the carpark. I continued home on foot, as ever; night had fallen, and I plodded in darkness back along the main street. I approached the walkway and saw the two cars for sale. They were parked like tins on a supermarket shelf. One was possibly a hatchback and the white one was like a station wagon.
everything working fine
I took down the phone number. Streetlights illuminated either side of the walkway. It felt like entering a golden tunnel.
STEVE BRAUNIAS' COLUMN WILL RUN EVERY FORTNIGHT. NEXT WEEK: ASHLEIGH YOUNG.