Have you ever noticed that life is sort of like an action movie? Reach back into your memory and see what you can pull out. Chances are, you don't remember what you had for dinner two days ago, how you spent those fifteen straight hours on the web, or exactly when your supersize case of Red Bull reached the last can, necessitating the fight you are (i.e. I am) currently waging over who gets to drink it. No, you don't remember those things, but you do remember other things very vividly. You remember when you jumped into the swimming pool and hit your chin on the side, crimsoning the water with your manly blood. You remember—this in slow motion—when you ran a red light at 120 mph and glimpsed a camera on the traffic light as you passed. You remember what a moron you felt like when you had to plead guilty to that in court.
Anyway, my point is that memory has the boring parts edited out, which of course means that memory is a decidedly masculine skill. If I lived the life of my female counterparts, would I remember anything, or would all my life be left on the cutting floor? Just a thought.
One moment that was never, and will never be left on the cutting floor is the moment that a woman drove up to my house in desperate need of help. A damsel in distress, if you will.
I still remember the fateful day. It was a warm August afternoon, and the birds were singing, harbingers to the approaching events. I learned later that they were just being sarcastic, but at the time I actually thought they were happy. I was lounging on the porch, reading poetry.
Suddenly, the hideous grinding sound of steel on asphalt interrupted the birds, who rolled their eyes and flapped away. I almost did the same, until I noticed that the hideous noise had stopped in front of my lawn and that a driver of the fair sex was opening her door with the evident intention of approaching me. I hid my poetry under the porch and waited expectantly, trying to look buff and confident and knowledgeable but woefully aware of my helpless situation.
I said earlier that life is like an action movie. I should add a caveat. In an action movie, the damsel in distress always finds a hero who can solve all her problems. In real life, she has to be content with whatever the fates give her. Gentle (i.e. female) readers, you know this.
I stood up and shook hands with the Damsel, whom I shall henceforward call D. She said she was having trouble with her car. I told her I was glad, because it sounded like a hurricane and hurricanes are hard to fix. But cars are easy, I said. So easy that anyone could do it. She smiled at me, admiringly. I smiled back, nervously.
"So, um, do you need some tools or anything?" I asked. "What seems to be the problem?"
The girl just smiled again. I think she had taken some sarcasm lessons from the birds; I could see it in her eyes. But she was very sweet and polite. "I don't know. I was hoping you could tell me."
"Of course I can," I replied, and sauntered towards the car. (I am not good at sauntering in general, but this was one occasion that called for it.) "From the sound of it, D, I think you've got some structural problems. Probably more than mechanical but less than aesthetic. Or vice versa."
I walked around the car to open the hood and then thought better of it. Sometimes, to open a hood, you need to lift a little latch in the front of the car and it is hard to find. So instead, I threw myself down on the pavement and crawled underneath the vehicle. She couldn't see what I was doing down there. I peered around at all the black metal stuff, and reached my hands up into some of it so they would look greasy. Then I rolled up my sleeves. When I had been there long enough to arouse curiosity, I rolled out with a grimace.
"So, do you know what it is?"
I licked my lips and wiped my arm across my forehead, smearing the grease and the perspiration together quite picturesquely. "Just about. One more minute and I'll have it. You see, this part is... but no need to go into details." I dove under again.
This time I hit my head on a big slab of sharp metal. Disappointingly, it didn't draw blood. But in a strange turn of fortune, an idea entered my brain. That metal was part of the rear bumper, which had partially fallen off. There was no way to really fix it without a welding set or a screwdriver or some such drastic measure, but I knew the next best thing, and headed for the garage. D followed me with a quizzical look. I didn't know what to say, so I grunted and it seemed to work just as well. In the garage was a roll of duct tape, which I applied to the bumper-metal-piece-thingy until it was high enough above the pavement that the hurricane noises were avoided.
I then invited D inside for a drink, but she politely declined. Apparently, she didn't like Red Bull. Or maybe she just didn't want to share the last one with me. It doesn't really matter anyway. All I know is that as I rolled down my sleeves and watched the silent car speeding away, the birds started singing again. And this time, I knew what they meant.