Yesterday, my car wouldn’t start when I was in the parking lot of a supermarket, across the highway from a Walmart. The first thing that happens is that I imagine the worst. My car is dead. It will not start again. The one thing I own that gives me freedom to move has abandoned me. I should just give up while I’m behind.
In the span of less than a second, my mind has gone from boring store run to the world is over. The feeling is like a hand inside my chest, squeezing everything hard. My mind switches on and doesn’t stop until it fixates on one thing: getting out of reality itself.
To be fair, I remember this episode because it lasted longer than the other smaller ones I get from time to time. This is my car. It’s supposed to be my refuge. Everything else can get taken away, but my poor, old car needs to be there.
I call for someone to come and give me a jump. The car starts up again. Panic subsides. I can move my vehicle. I take it over to the Walmart where they’ll look at it in the morning. They open at seven. I sleep a few hours and then head over.
Turns out the battery connector was too corroded from the previous battery. It never got replaced when I got a new battery a couple years back. Walmart didn’t sell the part, so I had to go to an auto parts store to get it. When I get back and hand them the part, they put it in.
Then, they tell me the car won’t start. This is the second time I go into overdrive. The only thing keeping me from freaking out is the fact that there are strangers nearby. I’m trying to convince myself that this isn’t terrible news. I get my key back and go to start my car. Maybe the guy can’t drive a stick and got lucky starting it the first time.
I turn the key, lights pop up, but nothing happens. A wave of relief washes over me. This is something familiar. My car does this when it can’t get enough juice from the battery to start the engine. I pop the hood.
My dad was with me. He fiddles around a bit and then tells me to try again. I turn the key.
It starts right up.
This time, it’s the connector again. Staff couldn’t tighten a bolt enough because of where the battery sits. You could thump the battery cable with a finger and the whole thing would come right off. My car wouldn’t start because it can’t conjure up the electrons through dog cussing or magic.
When I get home, my dad and I work on the connector. It’s tight now. Everything is fine. I’m settling back into comfortable neutrality. There’s only the occasional random nervous thought: what happens when it happens again? The aftershock of the earthquake. A jump scare when the audience thinks the movie is over.
Everything is fine, except that it’s not. Nothing is fine, except that it’s not. My life lives in extremes, and I’m exhausted running from one to the other.