I was very taken away when I first saw you. It’ll be a strange comparison, but you reminded me of my first car: a 1967 sky blue Ford Fairlane. There was something about the ocean, the sound inside of a seashell between the both of you, though there was really, no seashell at all, in either of you. That car shook violently when I drove it, you—I haven’t even heard your voice.
Just a vague feeling. A comfort. The stretched out blue ocean dissolving on the soft curve of the earth. You both remind me of the stupid ocean.
You wouldn’t understand, I know that about you now. You’re the type of person who doesn’t have feelings that are scattershot like that. You’re a person grounded in the ordinary world. I envy that about you. I am a person so full of wild ideas and misunderstood love that I often feel like a balloon instead of a human.
I’m just floating across rivers illuminated with pure radiating fire. Well, maybe not fire, that would pop a balloon.
Your reaction to my good deed the other night was very disheartening. Serves me right for trying to be kind. I figured, we’re both single, attractive … in the market. Why not try to be kind? As I’ve already said, I tend to do things differently, the average guy would have sauntered up to you in the bar and he would have made some clever little comment and then cleverly have attempted to buy you a drink and then cleverly—a lot of cleverness, all of it. I don’t operate that way. I think there’s room in this world for soft beautiful light. People are just often too afraid of embarrassing themselves. Closed tight like flowers that bloom momentarily only in certain moonlight.
I could see how you would have been a little uneasy, thinking about how someone had been in your apartment while you were sleeping. That would creep anybody out. I am however, completely puzzled as to why you felt the need to involve the police. Obviously my intentions were good. If they weren’t you would have known all about it, much earlier. I wish I could have been listening when the officer took the report:
“What? Someone broke into your apartment while you were there and did what?”
“The intruder did the dishes?”
“The intruder did the dishes?” A second time, skeptically.
“And left a sweet note,” you would clarify.
Later, I could just imagine them, standing in a circle at the station, their cop mustaches bouncing up and down, swaying back and forth, as they laughed about your strange incident.
Sure, it was odd for me to come in like that. Don’t be mad at your superintendent, it’s not his fault. I could steal just about anybody’s keys. If you’re going to be mad at anybody, be mad at yourself. You’re not all you are cracked up to be. Your exterior might be a marvelous thing, your inner light is not all that pleasant. Plus, you snore. You drool. You really need to water that plant in the kitchen a little less. Wouldn’t the living room be a much better place for it? The sunlight, is all.
The truth is, I have been coming into your apartment periodically, though we are complete strangers, or truthfully, one-sided strangers. I know a lot about you. Though we haven’t talked, or even exchanged glances, I am drawn to you. Last Tuesday I organized your CDs alphabetically. A couple nights later I did your taxes. For real, check your file cabinet. Done. I found your grocery shopping list and figured I’d be romantic and go shopping for you, have the brown paper bags waiting on the counter when you walked in after your yoga class. But I was worried that you would come home with your own groceries and then there would be far too many groceries. It would go to waste. I was concerned the butter pecan ice cream would melt.
Sad, the silly things that keep people confined to their own small lives, apart from one another. In a better world, our desires would be necessary things that kept us alive for each other. Our desires would not just be mild hobbies.
So, there—our love affair is over. It makes my heart heavy, and perhaps, it will bring you relief.
I thought I’d write to you and point out something good that came out of this for me. Once I realized it wasn’t going to work out between us, I turned my attention to the thing that was really making me unhappy. My sky blue 1967 Ford Fairlane.
Some years ago, I was forced to sell the car. It was in bad need of repair and I am just not the kind of person that can make heads or tails out of how to repair things. I just needed money. At the time, selling the car was something I did without much thought. Later it became something I majorly regretted. The months peeled away from me and then, the first hot day—to my horror, there was the car—cruising around, fully restored. It’d been resurrected from my dreams into the daylight, the windows down, the radio on, the arm of the new owner sticking out, getting the best trucker tan he could after a long brutal winter.
That’s right. The man who bought it from me was something of a force of nature. He took my decaying vehicle and transformed it in no time flat.
I’d have to watch my old car, drifting by on the roads of my small town and try not to let it completely break my heart. It was now under so many layers of wax even the sun had to turn away from its glare. The chrome was something only dreams could polish that bright. The purr of the exhaust was like a small orchestra to me as it coasted through the traffic light. The worst part of all of this was that I was on foot! Yeah, I didn’t even have a car.
I came to the sudden conclusion that I didn’t need you, that you were just a stand in for something that I really had to take care of.
I went to the man’s house while he was at work and I did all of his laundry. I used fabric softener. I used spot remover on a shirt stained with wine. I cleaned out the dryer lint trap after every load. I neatly folded everything. Then, I fed his cat and cleaned his bathroom, scrubbing the hell out of the toilet. I even got all of the soap scum off the sliding glass shower door. I emptied the trash cans, changed the sheets on his bed, sent his mom a birthday card.
Satisfied, I went to the garage and took my car back. It really drives like a dream now.
I’ll tell you this and you probably won’t believe it, but it’s impossible for this car to get stuck at a red light. Every light it hits is green. And everyone would fall in love with me if they were in this car, on my bench seat. Everyone. Just try not to smile.
The weather has been hot—there’s no better time to be cruising up the coastline with the windows down. The wind whirrs in my ears so loud I can’t hear the radio, but that’s the point. Life is beyond a radio broadcast. The wind in my ears like that, it’s like if you listen very closely, you are getting direct orders from the same beautiful noise stuck inside a sea shell.
And soon, I will be at the ocean, the sun on me. The sun beaming down on the car, as it belongs. And there, I’ll lay on the hood, my hands behind my head, feet splayed out—watching the stretched out blue ocean dissolving on the soft curve of the earth.
Your Secret Admirer
You can pick up a copy of Bud Smith’s new audiobook F250, narrated by the author himself. Out now from Talking Book.