I drove along Lake Avenue looking at the street numbers as they went up, and then down, and then up again. All around me were dilapidated and vacant buildings. I should have been there by now. Why is it taking me so long? Did I miss the sign?
I pulled into a gas station and locked my doors. Two young men in hoodies, hands deep in their pockets stood near the door, watching me. Or were they looking at my car? It wasn’t pretty: black and pitted with rust. Once a sleek and sporty BMW 325i, now browned and ravaged by salt from 17 winters. Chunks had fallen off, and yet the engine purred – until now. As I punched in a number on my phone, the car began to shake and growl.
“I think I’m lost,” I said, one eye on the youths rocking back and forth on their heels. I wondered why they were’nt in school. It was 1:45.
“Where are you?” asked Tony.
“Lake Avenue just past Denise.”
“Oh, no,” he said. I wasn’t lost, just way north of my destination.
“Okay, got it,” I said visualizing the landmarks Tony told me to look for. The steering wheel felt tight when I tried to turn left and pull out of the station. The car continued to shriek in protest.
The engine light burned red on the console. Not good. Something was very wrong. I was afraid to stop and turn off the car. I didn’t know this part of Lake Ave and the natives didn’t look welcoming. I continued to drive. Just a little further, I said to myself and the car. You can do this. I chugged into Tony’s sign shop. He was waiting for me outside.
“I’m afraid to turn off the engine,” I said.
So we had our meeting about signs in the parking lot.
When I pulled out, the noise was worse. I wanted to go home. I needed to get back to the office. Or could I get this rust bucket to the dealership?
A few more turns, lights and prayers. I willed my car along the dirty streets and empty stores.
I called my husband who thankfully hadn’t left for Albany, yet.
“I don’t know what to do,” I said. “The lights are all flashing, I don’t want to be stranded. I don’t want to crash.”
He calmed me in the midst of my panic and told me to make a choice. He would come and get me.
In the end, however, a choice was made for me by divine intervention along the expressway. A wrong turn became the right turn as I continued to drive.
You can make it, I whispered.
A few more lights. Another mile. One last traffic signal. The dashboard lights dimmed. No turn signal. No hazards. No brake lights. The car was drained. A left turn and the car shut down as I coasted into the car dealership.
I exhaled and walked away.