Thursday, July 13, 2006


Ah good--the CHECK ENGINE light blinks on the dashboard.

It's probably nothing. It's done this before, guys with greater knowledge than me have pointed out that it's not worth it to run the diagnostic, that light's basically just there to remind you of some recommended service. If there was really something wrong with the engine, I'd already know it.

I know this. Yet it's making me anxious, a gnawing, festering anxiety. The last time the light came on, I ignored it and it went away. My car was fine. No problem. But that was several thousand miles and what feels like another lifetime ago.

Crappy things seem to be happening to me at regular intervals these days. Big things, little things, they add up, slowly draining the joy from my life. Yeah, for now, I've still got my sense of humor, and I feel like as long as that's in place, I can survive anything.

I can't help wondering, though, how firmly in place that is. Am I one catastrophic financial or emotional blow away from losing it?

Or to put it another way: Do I finally spring for them to hook my car up to the computer? It's only seventy bucks, and while a couple of months ago, seventy bucks would have been nothing, money's a little tighter now. Yeah, I can afford it, but what if they find something seriously wrong? Can I afford that?

Or do I do nothing and continue to drive a ten-year-old car that has already developed a significant oil leak? And if the car goes kablooey, I'm well and royally fucked, since I need it for my job, and considering what my monthly bills look like, I'd be hard-pressed to afford a new (used) car.

I'm forty-one, and if, when I was younger, I ever imagined my life at this age, the vision was probably nothing like this reality. Probably I never actually imagined living this long, so in that sense I'm ahead of the game. But a tiny apartment, a crappy job, two cats, no girlfriend, no change to any of this in the forseeable future--no, that's not a future I would have imagined for myself, even in my grimmest moments.

It's the life I made for myself, though. College, feh, that was for elitists, I figured, or people who wanted to spend their lives as puppets of The Man. No way, I'd make my own life and march to my own music, even if I wound up marching straight off a cliff.

Still...I've never really gone off the cliff. Some wrong turns, unavoidable detours and unmarked cul-de-sacs aside, my life's journey has been largely satisfying. Right now I'm just cruising, I've been to the old familiar places and I missed the exit I meant to take, but it's okay, there will be other exits, and maybe they'll lead to places more interesting than wherever it was I wanted to go in the first place.

Still, I'd better pull off soon, before my life-as-highway metaphor springs a leak.