It’s 6am and I’m waiting in the Costco parking lot of Industry City for my Jeep to be towed here. 5 calls. The first to my wife asking if she’d moved it, the second to the fire department it had auspiciously been parked next to before it vanished, the third to the police department who told me to call a more local department, the fourth to the more local department who told me to call this towing company and the final and fifth call to the towing company who said, “yes, we have your vehicle. Go to the Costco parking lot in Industry City to get it back. We’ll bring it to you. 40 minutes. Cash preferred.” Like many things that relate to municipal dealings in the city, I don’t really question it. Of course they want to meet in a wide open public place, of course they would prefer cash. This is basic ransom 101. I think everyone would agree.
The city does this from time to time. Shift ground on you. You drive across the same bridge year after year and suddenly, on a day like any other, it’s no longer there. You can’t question it. People will tell you it was never there to begin with. That you’ve been going the wrong way for decades and the bridge has always been due south of your present location. Then an envelope will appear on your windshield. It’s the color of a caution cone, of biological hazard, this kind of high alert orange that makes you think of Smokejumpers in Mendocino and prisoners in Folsom. Inside is a ticket. It doesn’t necessarily matter what it’s for. The fact of the matter is they have the scent of your Jeep now, it’s 4.0L V6 engine, and they know when you turn it on. They hear it when it combusts, when the gasoline hits the oxygen and ignites; it ignites them too. The best way for them to stop hounding you is to pay cash. You see, you need the car for work. You need the work to pay rent. You need the rent to have somewhere to come home from after work. And it goes on like this, over and over and over until something gets impounded. Until they come along and say, “You’re not taking enough responsibility for your actions. We can’t rely on you. We have to take something away, something big, preferably 3 tons or more. We’re legally obligated to intervene in your life because you’re making such a mess of it”.
That’s not happening today. Today I have the cash. Not by any grand design or preparation, I just have it. But on many days I don’t. I drive around the city for work, I buy something nice I can’t afford, I get letters from my college asking for donations I don’t have, I park my Jeep after 10 hours on the road and wonder if I’ll ever see it again. I go inside, I live a wonderful little bit of life. I don’t sleep enough and when there’s a knock on the door – not a ring, they knock, they never ring – I wonder if this is it – if this is the day I can no longer be legally held responsible for my wonderful little bit of life. I wonder if they are just outside the door waiting to take it away from me.
Michael Aurelio is an actor and writer living in Brooklyn. His chapbook, “The Smokers” was designed and printed by a motorcycle gang in Red Hook. His writing has appeared in No Contact Magazine, Bodega Magazine, Train River Publishing & Rejection Lit. He has performed off-broadway & very off-broadway and occasionally makes appearances on your TV. He is constantly trying to get himself fired from No Contact & HAD. Find him on Twitter @aurelioacts.
image: MM Kaufman