Friday, December 09, 2005

On a Slow Moving Car

Picture yourself when you were about eight, sitting with your friend on your friend's Mom's car in the garage. It's just a standard 4-door blue-grey Buick or Oldsmobile, and both of you are sitting on the hood with your feet pressed onto the brick wall of the back of the garage. You're chatting about baseball or football, school and classmates, or maybe all of those. Time back then seemed to stretch out forever, until it didn't, like when you suddenly notice that your knees aren't bent quite as much as they were when you first sat down. And after thinking about it, the two of you can't help but wonder if maybe you, two small boys just sitting around, are powerful enough to have moved a car! The next thing the two of you do makes all the sense in the world at the time, as you actively push against the wall, just to see that, yes, you did it. It doesn't take too long before there's no bend in your knees at all, you've been able to move the car that far!

Right about that time, however, the car begins moving on its own. The back tires evidently have been pushed out the garage, and onto the slightly sloping driveway behind the house. The two of you race out the garage to get behind the car, to stop what you've started, but you discover that it's far easier to push a car on a flat surface than it is to stop the same vehicle on a slightly downward slope . You push with your scrawny eight-year-old arms as hard as you can while your friend runs in to get his Mom. You're not worried about getting run over -- even though you can't stop it, it's not moving that fast. Besides, you're eight, which means that as far as you're concerned, you're immortal. No, your only worry is the car, and the neighbor's fence -- the car's heading straight for that fence, and it sure as heck isn't going to make the turn to avoid it with no one steering. You sure hope your friend's Mom gets there pronto.

You have an impossible vision of this scene, as though there were a photograph showing a short and bony curly-haired kid straining against a car while his friend is racing out of the screen porch and his friend's Mom is just starting to appear from out of the shadow caused by the inside room being so much darker than the daylight. But of course there never was a picture, only your memory superimposing an out-of-body experience.

You know what happens next, for all this happened roughly 30 years ago, but there's still a part of you that's there in the past in the non-existent photo, unsure whether your friend's Mom will arrive in time. And time once again stretches out into infinity.