Time to Settle Accounts
January 6, 2012: Whatever they be.
I was walking south on Damen Ave. just under the Blue Line when a car passed slowly by me, pulled into a space, and parked. The car was a luxury sedan of indeterminate make, model, and color. Perhaps a blue/green Lexus from the mid-90s. Two women got out of the car. They locked the car and walked across Damen to Cipollina. I decided to steal the car.
I had two reasons for stealing the car. First, I’d never stolen a car, and probably never would otherwise, so why not here? Second, I figured it was a great way to meet those two women. They’d really caught my eye.
I imagined them exiting Cipollina with their toasted Italian bread veggie sandwiches, and shouting, “Our car!” Then I would speed around the block and pull up in front of them. “Looking for this?” I would say. They would be awed and smitten, as it would be clear that a man who could steal their car could protect them from the world’s dangers. Perhaps they would file a police report, and I could even impress the officer on duty with my skills and cunning.
That settled it. I had to steal their car.
I would have to be fast, of course, because Cipollina always keeps their line moving. I strode casually and daringly to the passenger side door and began rattling the handle. If I just focused really hard…
I opened the door, kicked off my flip-flops, sat down, and closed the door. The interior was smooth leather with seats much bigger than the car’s exterior suggested. I scooted over to the driver’s seat, all the while keeping a watchful eye through the Cipollina window. The women were next in line. It was imperative that I work fast.
First I waved my thumb over the ignition a few times, prepping the engine. Then I toggled the gear shift just to make sure it wouldn’t snap off in my hand or something.
Finally, when everything was ready, I put my hand in front of the ignition as if I was holding a key. I turned my hand to the right to start it. It sputtered at first. Damnit, I thought. Come on, start you.
I turned my hand to the right again, harder this time and with a cooler look on my face. Boom! The car started! I looked into the window at Cipollina; one of the women was paying. I cackled loudly, hit the radio, and sped away. They were sure to be impressed.
I made the quick left on Wicker Park Ave. and then took the next left on Honore, hooking back to Milwaukee. It was a beautiful summer afternoon and Milwaukee was jammed.
“To hell with this,” I said. “The rules obviously do not apply to me,” and with that I hit the gas and sped into the bike lane. “Holy crap!” I yelped. The accelerator was very sensitive and within half a second the speedometer was over 200.
Crap, I thought. I’d forgotten about the no left turn from Milwaukee back to Damen. If I was going to wow these ladies, I would have to loop back around the other way. The light was yellow, so I revved the engine and swung a fast right at nearly 250 mph onto Damen, nearly clipping two men on fixies.
Now I was cruising. Windows down, music blaring, a smooth 200 miles per hour on the streets of Bucktown. I bet I could get some real speed in this baby if I head to the highway, I thought.
I roared past Armitage and zipped straight for Fullerton. But traffic looked bad heading west, so I turned right. “Lake Shore Drive it is!” I shouted gleefully. I powered down on the gas, and in what seemed like no time at all I was in Lincoln Park, approaching Lake Shore.
But something caught my attention. There was a marsh to my right that I’d never seen before. It was enormous, and for a second I thought I was now in Glencoe. That’s odd, I thought.
Moving next to the marsh were two women on roller skates. They were wearing matching full-body spandex, one blue, one red. The woman in blue appeared to be my girlfriend from 8th grade, albeit grown up. I drove slowly alongside them and popped a wheelie. “I stole this car,” I said boastfully.
Are you going to return it? the one in blue thought to me.
“I am on my way to do that now,” I said, leaning out of the window.
That’s good, thought the one in blue. You took on responsibility.
“I know,” I said. I checked the time. “Crap! It’s getting late. I must go,” and I waved goodbye. I saw them waving in my rearview and decided to impress them. The road was curving around the marsh. “F*** the marsh!” I shouted, and with that I took off over the lip of the marsh and drove right on top of the water. I did wheelies over patches of seaweed, skidded atop the surface and then accelerated again, splashing water behind me. It was thrilling.
And, I thought, this is a faster route back to Wicker Park. Those women are probably done with their sandwiches and getting antsy.
I made a hard right, but in doing so I lost control of the car. It was now driving up.
“Damnit,” I said. “Drive down. Drive down!”
It was no use. The car went higher and higher.
I looked down and could see the two women talking to police. “I’m right here!” I shouted. “I’m bringing it back!”
But I wasn’t. Up ahead the sky was black and filled with stars, and as I got closer to them one star cracked open before me. It widened, and I steered toward it, hoping for safety and a chance to explain myself. I would not get to return the car and impress the women. The dream was dying. Floating away. And into the brightness.
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