August 1997
s m u g
by Wayne Cunningham

The Unfaithful

I guess I'm still bitter about it. Although it's been 4 years I still feel the heartache, my stomach still twists when I think about the relationship. But it was my first really serious one. Oh, that unfaithful car.


The first time I caught it stepping out was when I took it out to go see a movie on Haight Street in San Francisco. I was in the Red Vic watching "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane," and it was parked on the corner. When I got out of the show, it was gone. I didn't know what to think. I hoped some nice police person had just escorted it home.

I thought, "whatever" and got in the first taxi I saw. Down a few blocks, there it was, flagrantly abandoned in a driveway. I got out of the taxi and went to pick it up. I couldn't believe it had gone off with someone else. It was nothing to look at; a green '78 Toyota wagon with rusted door panels. But it had a reputation for being easy. There had been an Agent Orange reunion show at the I-Beam that night, so I suspected it went off in the company of some young 3rd wave punks. They've got no taste. I hadn't left it with much gas, so I credited my quick recovery with the short leash I kept it on. But I would soon find that I couldn't always be that watchful.


The second time I guess I was mentally prepared. We hadn't done much that evening, and went in early. In the morning it was gone. To this day I don't know what midnight forays it made, or who it went with. It hadn't been 48 hours, which television tells me is the proper amount of time to wait, but I called the police. They had it in custody, having found it alone on Harrison near 24th. I lived at 16th and Guerrero at the time, so it really hadn't gone too far. I went to the police station and eventually convinced them it wasn't my fault, that I had been good to it. They were actually pretty nice about it and released it into my custody, though I can't imagine what kind of sucker they thought I was.

What was I doing taking it back after leaving me twice like that? Well, there had been a lot of good times, times when I was lonely and needed to do some soul searching away from the city, and it was there for me. Really fun times of just cruising around on a summer day with no where in particular to go. The times I moved, and was pleased with its ample cargo space. It had been good to me for the most part. It was a low maintenance relationship.


The third time was just a little too serious. When I found out what kind of crowds my car was running with, I knew I had to take steps. It had been an early night, like the previous time, and I woke to find it gone. I called the police. It was already in custody, having been found this time on Potrero Hill. They weren't going to let it go right away, since it had been involved in a crime. I was furious, but I had two days to wait to see it again. And by the end of that time I was ready to forgive, mostly. From what I gathered it had been an accessory to a robbery, and no one got hurt, so that wasn't too bad. Still, I had visions of my car getting itself mangled out there some night, running away from the police, so I locked it down with The Club.

It has been said "If you love something let it go, etc. etc." but after being left 3 times I guess I developed an all or nothing state of mind, and I was determined it should be all. And things actually worked out all right for a time. Those were happy days, when I didn't have to feel nervous about staying out late, going to see a band, hanging out at a bar. I felt we could go to any part of the city and things would be okay. There was a new confidence in the relationship. I got it various gifts, like new brakes, and Bob Dobbs Jr. transparencies to hang in the windows. Then we went to Portland, just the two of us, for a vacation.


It was a beautiful summer day, hot, and we went to the old downtown area. I wanted to go to the bookstore, Powell's, which is Mecca for book lovers. I left it just a few blocks away from the square, and in the spirit of this carefree vacation and the current joy in our relationship, I didn't bother to lock on The Club. And of course, when I got back, it was gone. Far from home, running off with whatever stranger happened to have walked by and taken an interest, I was devastated. I reported it to the police, let them know what motel I was staying at, and spent the night contemplating what life would be like alone. By morning I accepted the idea that from now on I would just be getting on whatever bus or taxi happened to be going in the right direction.

Then I got the call. They had found it, abandoned in some woodsy suburb outside the city. And I went back yet again. I bailed it out, and made the desultory drive back to San Francisco. We stayed together for a little while after that, until a nice Honda wagon caught my eye. I guess the relationship just wasn't that important to me by then, and it wasn't with any great sorrow that I gave up my Toyota to a couple of girls who seemed like they would treat it well.


Most of the time now, I just remember those fun, carefree times. Occasionally, when I'm revealing some more serious parts of my past, I will tell the story of my unfaithful car. But I'm much happier with my memories of the two of us tearing down an open road.



in the junk drawer:

July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997

and such
and such

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