Each week a neighbor raps my door to tell me that the interior light of my husband’s truck is on. I follow this conscientious resident to the driveway where I wait for him to turn heel before I dash back into my house. See, I can’t fix the light. I have strained to turn it off countless times, but it runs on some kind of paranormal power supply existing apart from the battery. This light is a tribute to the truck’s dogged persistence to stay alive, to keep rolling back miles on the odometer so long as we remain willing to fill its tires with air and to find mechanic shops lax on emission regulations.
Right after we got married, G decided he wanted to indulge in the utmost of New York City extravagances: a car. Owning a vehicle in Manhattan is a fruitless proposition. Contending with street sweeping schedules and parking regulations even the police don’t fully understand is a menace few have the constitution for. G, however, decided it would make him feel less marooned on the isle of Manhattan if we could flee over the bridges in a car of our own. The problem was that G didn’t buy a car. He bought a very large and old truck. Not old enough to be vintage and interesting, but just old enough to have an unfortunate number of miles and red upholstered seats. I’ll never forget the sight of G pulling into the parking garage attached to our apartment building. The doorman, who had extended us plenty of allowances in the way of oversized deliveries and loud gatherings, took one glance at that truck and said, “Oh, hell no.”
We finally found domicile for that truck in a neighborhood far flung from ours, making the process to fetch it more arduous than any journey aboard the trains and buses our fellow urban plebeians were relegated to. Circling our block while waiting for the other to emerge with weekend bags was like being on a Boeing 747 put into a holding pattern by Air Traffic Control. When the runway would finally clear, the one waiting at the curb would heave the belongings into the back and attempt to project himself into the cab. Much like air travel today, all passengers understood this was a no-frills mode that came with no pillows or legroom and a checkered maintenance history.
Determined to see the fruits of his investment, G sought opportunities to drive that truck anywhere. When I opened the invitation to a wedding to be held in the neighboring state of New Jersey, sent by a woman who worked for me, G declared with conviction, “We’ll go in the truck.” Despite my strenuous objections to turning up to a country club in a truck even the landscapers wouldn’t drive, his mind was fixed. I reminded him of my recent appointment to Group Director of a division within the media company I worked for, germane because the attendants at this wedding would be largely comprised of the people who report to me. He stared at me blankly, and I grimly realized there was no shaming a man about his truck. Like I felt about my crimped hair in grade school, he felt nothing but pride despite the jeers from those walking by.
We pulled into the manicured drive of the country club, lavishly lined with tilting maple trees. G’s arm hung casually out the open window as he inhaled the breeze coming off the well-tended grass of the golf course, oblivious to the engine’s deafening grumble. I shrank into my seat, noting the ridiculous contrast of my dress against the threadbare seats and my heels against the dirt-laden floor mats. I mentally reviewed my affirmations: I can’t be fired for driving an F250. I can’t be demoted for leaking engine oil all over the parking lot. If anyone sees me leave in this truck, I’ll scream from the passenger seat as though I’m being abducted and then I’ll bring a fake police report to work. I continued with my mantras as the valet opened my door and extended his hand. The blood pounded in my cheeks as he pulled me from my chariot, which was, in its idle state, filling the foyer with noxious fumes. I cringed as he grunted against the heft of my body free-falling from the height of the passenger seat. I offered a foppish apology and muttered something about Cinderella being a malcontent hooker for worrying about the impression she would make arriving to the ball in something as sweet as a pumpkin. G strode to the front and tossed the valet the keys as though he had just exited a Lamborghini.
During the reception, while G was sidled up to the oyster station, turning his plate into the deck of a deep sea fishing vessel, I looked up to see a few members of my new staff walking toward me, led by the one I suspected may be organizing a violent coup d’etat. Our eyes locked and I could see the glint of knowledge in his pupils. He knows, I thought with dread. “Hey Erin,” he said. I smiled graciously, straining to loosen the grip of paranoia. He leaned in close as if he was about to share something intimate.
“Listen, we couldn’t find anywhere to throw our cigarettes in the parking lot so we tossed them in the back of your truck. We saw the empty beer cans and figured you wouldn’t mind.”
Thankfully the reception had an open bar.