Some years ago I was working as a locksmith for a mid-sized company, on the road in a big white van, opening houses and safes, changing the locks for people when things didn’t work out, that sort of thing.
I had a call to open a car at a gas station, fairly routine. It was a night call. At the time I was working a lot of night calls, my marriage was over in all but name, my children were gone, I had nothing to come home to except a hamster and a bottle of Scotch. So I took a lot of nights. If I was going to be miserable, I might as well be miserable doing something that made money.
The car was a little boxy Honda, one of those mid-range cars that nobody really wants, they just settle for. It was parked up against the building, not at a pump. The client was a young lady, not conventionally attractive, short and wide, with a face that looked like it didn’t smile much. She had lovely hair, though, I remember that. Her hair was blonde and fine and curly, Like Farrah Fawcett in that poster that everyone had in the 1970’s. Pretty hair.
She seemed nervous, tense. Granted, no one ever wants to lock their keys in their car, and usually the clients are angry at themselves, the situation, and not infrequently at me. But she seemed more than usually upset, and I wondered if she was late for something. A date, maybe.
Now, when I open a car, I always go to the passenger side, primarily because the driver’s door, in many cars, has a lot more wiring in it, and you don’t want to snag wires with a car opening tool if you can avoid it.
So, I came up to the young lady, introduced myself, and took my little pouch of tools over to the car. I go to the passenger side window, and she follows me, looking uncomfortable. I took this as concern for her car, which is understandable, and so I made sure to work carefully and let her see that I wasn’t going to break anything. I used my air wedge in the window channel and my drop light to look down and see the linkage, slid my horizontal linkage tool down to grab it and slide it over, and *click*, the door is unlocked.
I’m pulling my tools free of the door and I glance through the window to make sure that the lock button is all the way up, and then I see it.
On the passenger seat is a big pink box with a brand new vibrator in it. It’s unmistakable, the packaging is not at all subtle. Well, I look away, look down at what I’m doing, but I can feel her seeing me notice it, and the moment kind of stretches.
I feel like telling her, “It’s okay” or “Everybody does it” or “I know how you feel” or something, but I know that anything I say is going to make things worse, and so I pretend that I didn’t see anything and she pretends to believe me, and we both act like professional adults. I run her credit card and she signs my paperwork and I get in my van and drive off.
This woman was part of my life, and me part of hers, for about fifteen minutes, tops. I am sure that she spent longer in the store where she bought the toy than on the gas station parking lot with me. I have no idea if she remembers me, I mean, I’m sure she remembers the incident, and she might even tell the story to someone that she is intimate with. It’s the kind of story that gets told.
But I don’t know if she remembers me.
I remember her. I actually think about her from time to time. I think about what I wish I could have said. I wish I could have told her that I was alone and wanted very much to spend the night with someone, and if she felt the same way we could spend the night together.
But I couldn’t say such a thing. I mean, knowing what I know now, the fact that she bought a vibrator doesn’t mean that she was alone, and even if I had known for a fact that she was it didn’t mean that she wanted a partner or that she wanted a man.
And it’s not even about wanting her, so much. It’s about wanting her to know that she didn’t have to be ashamed. I don’t know what she was feeling when she saw what I had seen, but I could tell it was uncomfortable for her. Seeing that in her eyes made me feel ashamed, not for her, but for myself, ashamed of wanting and not having.
I don’t know. I don’t really have a moral or a point to this story. It’s just one of those moments that stick with me, years later, and I’m not entirely sure why.
Maybe that’s the point.