It all happens so fast. This morning I stepped out of the house, feeling good, happy, sun, sky, blah blah. Approached the car, looking forward to getting to my spot at the coffee shop, doing a little writing and probably a bit of talking.
Keyed. The driver’s side door was keyed. I stood back and looked, gasped, swore. An eight inch streak of metal showed through the blue paint.
Why? Who the hell would key my car? Breathing harder now, I searched my mind. Who were my enemies? Christ, I didn’t even think I had any. Not now. Not after all these years. They’re all dead, forgiven, I’ve moved to the mountains of northern New Mexico and haven’t participated in any illegal, alcoholic, angry events that would give rise to an adversary. Not that I know of. Did I do something accidentally; did I insult someone, demean or ridicule or undervalue them? It’s very possible. That’s the way I behave sometimes. I know I have a tendency towards arrogance but the pivotal phrase is “I know”. I recognize my tendencies towards arrogance, narcissism, anger, sarcasm and obscenity and I try to keep them reined in, under cover, controlled. Of course, regardless of the above listed traits, I recognize that I’m not perfect. But to piss off someone so much that they would run their key over the door of my car, blemishing the smooth, well-cared for surface? Damn.
I was now in hypervigilant mode, running through the past several days, trying to pinpoint a moment of social infraction. Who? Ron, Sarah, Ken, Deborah? I know I’ve said things to all of them, my friends, which may have been misinterpreted. I’ve always figured that, if you don’t like something I’ve said, that’s not my problem. If you take it personally, misinterpret or misunderstand, disagree or become enraged, that’s your issue. Tough. Grow the hell up. Did I swear at one of my acquaintances or ignore their needs? Too bad, really, but such a response is truly inappropriate. The violent forcing of metal against metal to cause a blemish. Get a grip.
Fear. It may have happened in my driveway, so they know where I live. Oh, God, weapons. I haven’t had, or needed, a real weapon, anything more aggressive than a pocket knife, in years. A gun. I should give in to the ongoing, highly encouraged impulse to arm myself with a serious handgun. Carry it in the car, or in an ankle holster like my brother, Rich. I’ve always considered Rich a bit paranoid, showing up at family weddings with a 9 mm, wearing his 22 magnum on his hip at my mother’s ninety-fifth birthday party, but now I wonder if he’s just more socially conscious than I am. It’s possible. I’m arrogant, as I’ve admitted, but there are forces at work in the world that may be unfamiliar to me and hostile. I don’t know everything. I’m still capable of surprise. So, perhaps a gun.
I considered driving into town and retracing my steps. The coffee shop and the grocery store. That’s about it, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. I’d start with the coffee shop because the same people are there every single morning, like me, tapping away on their laptops. I’ll look at each of them, gauging their mental health, their potential for anger and acting out. Mostly writers and baristas who have, thus far, remained pretty anonymous. We rarely talk about anything of importance and the conversations are short, everyone anxious to get back to their novels. There is a therapist who comes in often. Possible. I can’t imagine any of those nice people, the creative and educated, manifesting such a destructive impulse. Keying a car. It’s so primitive, so unevolved.
I will look at each one of them, catch their eyes and if they waver, avert their glance or grimace, showing resentment or annoyance, I will know. My instincts are good. I will know which one of those bastards keyed my goddamn car, or at least I’ll have a general idea. I’ll make a list and analyze it when I get home. It may help me to remember a specific event.
I was grinding my teeth. The nerve of anyone. Fools. Assholes. I was seeing cataclysmic confrontations, Lord of the Rings-type battles, dismemberments, torture, fire, shrieks in the night. I was worried that I’d have to move away and, in this economy, it was going to be difficult to relocate. How much is my house worth? Where will I go? What would my wife say when I tell her that we have to sell our home because we are now under attack, at war, with mysterious forces bent on my destruction. My stomach churned acid, I leaned forward to brace myself on the car before my knees buckled and I collapsed.
My palm touched the scratch and it came off on my hand. Mud. Not a scratch, but a thin line of mud, splashed up by my front tires. It’s been raining, which is great. We really need the rain.