The slight tinge of motor oil permeates the living room when I arrive. You have been working on the same race car since the first day we met. You love cars though. It’s almost like a meditation and safe haven for your mind, body, and soul. You like looking at its curves, dips, and grooves as it presents itself like a puzzle to your fingertips. I feel that you get satisfaction from working on a car from start to finish. You can put something physical together – complex and measurable.
It is propped up in the living room in the midst of a messy deck. The sink is overflowing, seasonings are spilled at the neck and into the sink, a half-eaten sandwich lies abandoned on a plastic plate while dirty forks straddle the kitchen counter.
This little red race car is under the kitchen light like a prize with its guts open and out on the floor underneath it.
“I’m almost done with the car,” you say, “just a few more tweaks.”
I don’t doubt you have been working on it day in and day out. Driving off into the distance in that red object is enough motivation to carry you through more than a week alone. The sounds of rain falling and you rinsing your stained slender fingers in the water harmonize together like a symphony. You reach for the white rag off to the side.
I envision the completion of the race car and become overwhelmed with sadness. The whole project will be complete – key in the engine and foot on the gas. I know you will find another car to fill the void soon. Another car with the same beauty, intricacies, and silver shine under a pale, yellow light. Another crank in the motor for workings of the meaningless.
Suddenly this primitive beauty of mine seems more childlike, episodic, and motivated by more maintenance than any shiny new car you will own. The complexities within me are jointed with possible let-downs, sadness, and failure. I can’t be built by those matte black fingers, and thus can’t be trusted to run properly. I can’t be controlled with jigs and shoddy instructions. My current environment is the stimuli from which I draw instruction. I have been put together, complex and immeasurable.
I knew it then and I felt it tonight.
I am looking at you from the other side of a glass. I can see your body, hands, and face clearly as if you are instant, palpable even. I reach and reach until my hand is cut off by that lucid barrier, unable to break through and grip. I shrivel back and find it easy to avoid that feeling altogether. The warm and rumbling metal is under the hood of your car. It is pumping hot oil around wires like blood through your veins. This is something that is real, accessible, and intrinsically empty.