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  • Writer's picturechristaleigh

Spare Parts

He took apart this car once.

It was on blocks for months, the telltale sign of a blue-collar existence and the male species’ flawed belief that they can put back together anything they take apart.

Grass grew up around it and insects made it their home, which is what insects do when they sense death, even if it’s only metal and plastic.

Eventually, he put it back together and got it running. Then he got rid of it.

It’s a good story he tells when he talks about the past.

But I heard there were parts that came out of that car and never went back in, and I think about that sometimes.

I think about how he must have driven her til she broke down, probably ignoring little maintenance issues that could have prevented it. But she was his, so he felt obligated to fix her, and it never really occurred to him what a job that’s going to be. All those parts and pieces that have to come out to find and fix the real problem...

Surely he encountered unexpected things... the corrosion left behind by the passage of time, the brittleness of once pliable hoses, and the eventual clogging of important valves. He gives no consideration to the time it took for her bearings to break and for the metal she’s made of to grind her to a halt. She’s supposed to be grateful that he didn’t just take her to the junkyard, grateful that he’s willing to fix what the forces of nature beyond his control and a little occasional reckless driving completely under his control broke. So she opens herself up to him and says, “Take your best shot.”

He removes parts not like a skilled surgeon, but like someone who’s digging for water in the desert. She waits patiently while the grass grows around her, and she gets used to the insects who make their home in her. It’s inconvenient for him, that she’s out-of-order. So he hastily rebuilds…. tighten screws here, massage things a little there… adds a little more grease to the things he wants to hear run smoothly again.

When he’s satisfied he’s eradicated all the offending parts and she looks complete, he’s pleasantly surprised at how easily she’s revived. The key turns and engine fires, and she wakes up with a roar. He watches her as she goes back into the world, admiring his work. Her smile is right where it always was. She can still say complete sentences and make dinner and she runs like she’s never had a breakdown, like she's never had scars that flaked off like rust.

And when he looks around the yard where he rebuilt her, he picks up things he doesn’t even remember taking out.

I wonder sometimes if he stands there with my heart in his hand, dented and bruised, looking down at it in confusion as if to say,

“This looks like an important part…

but she seems to run just fine without it.”

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