It was cold out, dry, sunny, the pavement white with salt and a bone chilling breeze. I had the hood up and my tools next to me, my black skullcap on and my Massport hoodie zipped up. I was taking the connections off the battery and taking the battery mount apart. My fingers were going numb and turning black from the dirt and grime. I got the battery out with ease and I was putting it down a thought and a vision eclipsed and with a flash of light it hit me. As I was putting the heavy battery to the ground I said to myself “It is much easier when you have the right tools..” and as I was saying this I noticed the my right index finger was bleeding at the knuckle….all of a sudden I felt like my father. I had to stop a moment, it became so surreal and the world around me ceased to exist and I was 14years old in my driveway again, forced to be helping my dad on a cold day as he worked and I bitched and moaned about being out there. He was wearing Massport clothing, his hands dirty from the grime on the engine, his knuckles bleeding, but didn’t notice when it first happend because his fingers were numb. I could feel the cold North Atlantic air in my lungs, the dryness of winter and the white asphalt of our driveway. I could see the rotted out wood barrier on the side of our house, the rosebushes trimmed and tied back by my mom for winter. The frozen dirt and grass in the backyard and the yellow of the Shanahans house next door.
I came back into it and I had one hand on my car and the other on my thigh bent over. I looked down at my hands, cracked, dirty, bloody and numb. The tools spread around me, the nuts, bolts, and washers carefully placed so I would remember exacty how they went back on, just like my dad would. I felt a weird emotion, sadness and joy mixing together, a weird feeling I couldn’t quite comprehend. With all the stuff going on and my realization that I may be 400 miles from home, but I was millions of miles away from my family and friends. I longed to be 14 years old again in my driveway with my dad, I wanted to have that comfort that I didn’t need to pay attention to everything he was doing because he would be here forever and take care of it. I thought of my mom and how she never made me feel anything less than the greatest person alive, and how with a look she could fill me with guilt for dissapointing her. I thought of my sister and her round glasses, wide grin and the Black Dog sweatshirt she wore with such pride. I thought of my paper route and my fear of knocking on doors to collect money from the customers, how I didn’t want to confront people, because I was weak and afraid. I missed riding my bike with the Lynn Item in my paper route bag tied to the front handlebars, pretending each paper was a bomb and I had to deliver them in a set time or they would detonate and I would die…….I miss how all the money I earned on that paper route could be spent on frivolous things like candy and pizza, I missed how I didn’t even recognize I might be chubby.
I missed Toby and his benign nature, the way he slept at the top corner of the steps on his bed. I missed my wall untis that my dad built and how my parents let me fill them with lizards and snakes, how I would play nintendo with an old hockey goalie mask on and not think it was weird.
I looked at my hands….
I remembered the Tia Marie, the wooden boat my dad bought. I remember complaining every second as he made me work on it, bitching and moaning like a baby because I had to help my dad on the boat. I was young and lazy, I remember him trying to teach me things, important things that I could learn nowhere else. I began thinking about the TIa Marie, taking trips to Martha’s Vineyard as a family on it, fishing from it, diving from it, and painting it. I had a great childhood, I had two parents who loved me and they sheltered me from so much growing up, I lived in a great town where I could ride my bike to the library and look at pictures of sharks and snakes in books, returning day after day to look at the pictures. I played little league and soccer, I got to see the Atlantic Ocean in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. I got to have my dad coming running in the house at dinner time telling us to hurry up and get down to King’s Beach because the blue’s were running.
I walked to elementary school and then to CCD, I walked to middle and high school (until I had a license). I had good friends and I knew no real pain. Life was good for me, but it was made that way because of my family.
So there I stood, dirty, numb, wearing a Massport hoodie, the smell of oil and car in my clothes.
I looked down at my hands….
I saw a scar on my right index finger where a swiss army knife closed on it. I chuckled to myself because I can relive that moment. I was at Fisherman’s Beach, we were fixing some gear for the sailing program and I had to cut some rope. I slipped and the knife closed on my finger, blood began rushing out and I clutched it running toward the ocean to rinse it. I got to the water’s edge and saw the dirty water and decided it was a no go. I ran back to the sand and went for the hose at the fish house. I rinsed it, the blood wouldn’t stop. Brian told me to call my mom because I would need stitches. I called her and she didn’t believe me, you see this also was the day my uncle was getting married. I finally convinced her it was real and she came to get me. We drove to the hospital and they stitched me up.
I laughed at the scar and as I laughed I felt a wave of sadness moved from my stomach, to my throat and then to my eyes. I waited for tears but nothing came. So I sat there, I thought of Jen, my youth, Toby, the white buick station wagon, the Tia Marie, the smell of the fish house and Massport sweatshits that smell like engine and oil. Nothing would come.
I stood there, numb, dirty, and bleeding. I just realized what I was doing and where I was. I couldn’t tell if it had been an hour or a minute. I shook my head, laughed to myself and finished putting the new battery in. When the battery was in I began putting things away, I sucked the blood off my knuckle and thought to myself “It’s a lot easier when you have the right tools….”