If I can convince myself I only feel like I have to use the bathroom, but actually do not, I can buy time to get this car to my house before I have to actually leave it running in the middle of the street while I dash to a gas station. You idiot- go to the gas station, fill the gas tank while it's running and use the bathroom there. Genius- I make a dash for the nearest gas station, Honda & I barrel down Nicollet sweating, eyeing down the streets watching out for police. Whether or not the car is legal at this moment isn't important, what's palpable is the feeling of it being street illegal. I called that f---ing department of public safety at least a dozen times to make sure they cleared that ticket about that thing with that thing. F it all, Honda's destiny either lay with the law in a greasy scrap heap of broken dreams, or in the hands of the one man that's never cared more for a machine than it... me.
Screeeeeeeeech! Swinging a hard loop into an ambiguous gas station at the end of Nicollet just before 46th, I kept the engine on and filled the tank like a potential gas & go. Christ, either I look sketchy or I just feel sketchy. I needed to turn my brain off, and go into what Niger Williams has coined as "Beast Mode". Nothing matters, nothing is real, no one is watching except for you. Go Toussaint... go.
Ten bucks should be enough. Screeeeeeech! I peeled out of the Nicollet Ave. station still feeling the weight of a ticking death clock growing heavier in my chest, I whipped the ride to my house, escaped the car at stuntman speed, sprinted toward the door, made sure to leave all my valuables at my house and not in the car. If this thing were to get pulled over and the plates actually weren't legal, then everything would hang in jeopardy. I can't have that. Can't risk the backpack, the mini HD, the camera, the theatre notes for GTC that remain eternally in the back seat. Everything must go.
Screeeeeeeech! We're back on the streets, running through residential areas at break neck speed (40mph) and soon coming to a halt. To continue, I had to make a right on Cedar Ave. Honda wasn't in shape to make turns as sharp as a right. Maybe a left, but not a right. You had to caress the acceleration, not push it. She bubbled once or twice giving way to a potential stall out in the middle of the f----ing street, but saved by a steady soft foot on the gas. Once the car got straight, we were kosher.
Cedar leapt onto 62, which connected to an obscure main highway, which connected to a dirt road. I wouldn't settle for being pulled over on 62. It'd just be too much, the traffic is always racing the road, rush hour is a pestilence to the soul when caught in the gridlock of it on 62, and the police surveying the area would be merciless. They would make example of me, entertainment of me, and soon the end of me... ever driving on the road again, let alone Honda. Multiple scenarios swept my imagination: Honda giving out while passing someone decreasing speed to create a dozen-car pile up of a murderous collision, a cop signaling us to pull over while I give the finger and mouth "go f--- your mother" which soon turns to an all out manhunt, or the simple occasion of stalling out and having to buy out a $150 taxi ride back to Minneapolis abandoning Honda for good... forever.
NASCAR racer Brad Keselowski put it best, "It's not about the fastest car in the race, it's about the man who refuses to lose". I've refused so long with this car that one could call it a delusional state of cemented denial. Had I put too much at stake for a simple car? Have I been so blind that nothing could be salvaged for the life of this machine in the end? Would I condemn myself to the ranks of Fuck-Up For Life sheerly over the pride of having Honda?... the answer is an undoubted, ambitious, fearless 7 mile stare into your soul YES.
Man handling Cedar onto 62 and then onto the obscure stretch of highway that would prove the nail in the coffin, I passed a police car and nearly sh*t my pants after realizing I had done so. My anxiety with the fuzz lay upon a news report I'd once watched about a device atop police cars that automatically read a bar code on every license plate they come into a 20 to 30 foot radius of. It just wreaks of Terminator in my opinion- the sizing up of every moving machine on the streets you come into contact with.
The sun was getting low. One of the headlights was out- if there wasn't enough reason to already pull over the moving mechanical deathtrap, I couldn't have this thing on the road at night. Pulling up to a gravel road, the highway trek was finished... and then it stalled. Taking the short baby right turn onto the gravel, I had gotten pretentious with accomplishing the breadth of the highway trip and smashed the turn too hard. The engine bubbled, then died. "Dammit! F---ing Sh-t!", cursing the roof of Honda did no good. I revved it slowly back to life and took to the curvacious country road somewhat resembling Mario World. It was only a few miles to the Empire of Engines.
Hugging soft twists, curves and dips in the road, Honda and I proceeded down a hill that ascended back uphill. Thinking nothing of it, I caressed the pedal going into the uphill- "p-p-p-p-p-p-put put put phhhhhhhhuuuuuuuu". She stopped again. "Puh-puh-puhhhhh...", and wasn't starting again. So we're here. Where the story starts. At the bowl of a gravel road, between previous descent and forthcoming ascension... One could see it as a rock bottom of sorts. Honda and I traveled downhill, and now do not have the engine to make it uphill. We're fucked.
At best, I could have Schrein concoct some sort of makeshift tow truck from his garage of wonders, but I doubt the kid's even home. Matter fact, I'm damn sure he's not home, as he texted me that exact information earlier today.
The sun almost gone, I stepped out of the car. "Madness", I whispered to myself. Just wrapping up employment at the school for my final one-on-one paraprofessional job, this would be the end of mobility for me for some time. I'd accept it, just not now. I'll accept it... just not like this. I lean against the passenger window of Honda, stare at that big beautiful ball of insatiable fire in the sky. Christ, whatever that thing is made of is as stubborn as hell... and perhaps me. A few important moments of reflection pass, I re-enter the car to what feels a reconciliation. Slightly, gently, slowly I rev the engine in parallel with the pressing of the pedal. They cooperate for a slim opportunity pushing successfully uphill.
A few miles later we arrive to the Engine Empire. Schrein's father exited the house as if he'd seen me coming 5 miles down the road, felt me on the farm's presence, or just heard the shitty rattle of the engine pull into their gravel driveway.
"Alright, what's the case here?" Schrein's father said as I exited the car. A glint of sarcasm, humor, and experience all traced thinly beneath his statement, I smiled at the mere sight of the man. Father of Schrein has a pace and patience to every movement and word his body exerts that can put you at an ease in any given circumstance. The level of calm in this man could crush your sense of urgency upon arrival. "Well, we're gonna put a new engine in it." The only rationale answer I could give. "Schrein know you're bringin' it?" He checks. "Oh yeah, Schrein knows. It'll be an overhaul situation", I return and smile. "Alright, well good luck with'er", he says.
I hop my ride back to Minneapolis from Carver County, carless, Honda hanging in the balance. The one sure thing is that the engine from '97 is no more. I don't know if there's a soul to the car, but a piece of it will definitely be replaced with another's. If any resolve in it's afterlife, it should know it's final run was nothing short of epic.