It’s one of those times when everything seems if not exactly stuck, then static. Something should be happening, moving. But it isn’t. Unless you count my car.
My Dodge Grand Caravan, to be exact. And what is more exciting than a caravan? Think tents and camels, sand and scimitars, not to mention samovars. Everything adventurous and limitless and moving across empty wastes that don’t feel like empty wastes. No, they are a medium, those sand dunes. And it’s all about what’s over the next one. All beneath a sheltering sky that really offers shelter, not irony. Never mind. It’s the thing in the parking space, after all, not Paul Bowles. Where were we?
Well, we were about to board our car, the new one. And it’s been hard getting aboard both the actual car and the concept behind it. Which is that I can convey myself safely, not to mention comfortably, and maybe even enjoyably, about this, our fine Bay Area.
The dream lives, and there are even moments when it approaches reality, but not yet.
And let us not forget that I complain of my life being stuck. That no grand plan has presented itself, no vast opportunity. That I spend a certain number of hours each day staring into space. Which can’t go on forever, I tell myself. But is at least partly in reaction to months of frenzy and change. All of it pleasant, although change is never all pleasant. As you can see, I digress.
The Grand Caravan, the red one, has already cut a sort of swath through my suburban life. After decades of excessive growth, the nasty oleanders bordering the parking area have been cut. Their reduction allows my automotive life to swell. I can now park right next to this shrubbery and have enough room to lower the ET-style flying saucer ramp that conveys my wheelchair into the van. Isn’t that cool? It really is. The only question being, how cool am I?
For example, am I cool enough to remember to retract this wheelchair ramp once inside the van? No. That is the simple answer. For as recently as yesterday, returning from brunch with friends in Palo Alto, all of us had clambered inside this spanking new red van, and I had started the engine, thrown the thing into reverse. And damned if the wheelchair ramp – still extended and resting on the pavement – didn’t retract itself. Good thing. Nothing like dragging a metal device costing several thousand dollars around the parking lot until it slams into a curb and detaches…leaving your wheelchair no way to exit. But never mind, for it didn’t happen. But it almost happened. And as you can see, I haven’t forgotten.
In dreams, I am often driving somewhere and discovering that the brakes don’t work. Things are going too fast, and there is no way to slow them. Of course, I am on a hill, downward course terrifying, speed mounting…and why? The question is not only not answered, but not even asked. Things are out of control, and there’s no time for contemplation.
Unlike now when contemplation is all there is, it seems. In the new van, one essential condition remains from the old one. My left foot. It is all there is by way of braking and accelerating. My entire life depending on this fancy footwork. Which currently makes me nervous. I seem to hit the edge of the brake with my foot, then slide the toes slightly under the accelerator. And either motion, braking or accelerating, seems to take a lot of effort. Was my foot always this hard to lift?
Was it always this hard to keep my balance in any context? A little bit of walking around my apartment wouldn’t hurt, by the way. I still have a crutch. Don’t get around much anymore, on foot. Problem is, this narrowing of transport has gotten out of hand. So, for starters, I am walking roughly twice as much as I used to inside my apartment. It’s a daily routine, up and down a set distance. And I probably should walk around indoors at least partly on my own, just for balance. But I don’t. Meanwhile, there’s the Grand Caravan and all its scariness. Good thing Jane and I are heading to a movie in Redwood City this very afternoon. It is five miles away, Redwood City, and temptingly close to the train tracks, but never mind. We shall hit the road, and if the road hits me, so be it. For the time being, never mind the Caltrain tracks. The tracks of my tears shall be upon them. I am on the road.