this is if only [dot] org


– Hey man, do you have a funnel?

An old Infiniti SUV piled up with all of his life, a red gallon beside it.

– I ran out of gas but the spout—

The spout was not a good spout. I thought on. I had a funnel to put oil in my own heap of junk. Yeah, let me dig it out.

– This is what I’ve got. Do you need it bigger or smaller?
– Bigger’s better.
– This?
– That’s better.

Glug, glug.

– You don’t need to get gasoline on your hands.
– I don’t want it to tip out.

Glug. Glug. And then it starts sloshing back beneath where it pushes into the tank. I get it on my hands. I think of the boxes of thin gloves at the pumps for people who don’t need them.

It keeps sloshing back.

– Maybe that’s enough to get it going?
– I can try.

He tries to start it. Nothing. I think I need a jump, he says. Okay, I’ll sort you out. I pull out, U-turn, double-park. A young woman stops and starts talking to him. I get out. It’s just great to see people helping each other out this way, she says, especially… and it trails off. I feel very white when she says this. She’s very much on her phone. I wonder if she’s planning to put it on Instagram as some kind of symbol of something.

– Hey, are you British? You sound British.

Red to red, black to black, which is wrong, but I’m not going to make a fuss about it.

– It’s sparking, that’s good.
– Be careful, you’ve got gas on your hands.

The headlights flash on, but nothing else. Can you wait a while? I can wait a while. I wait a while.

– I go to one place and they say it’s the battery. I go to another place and they say it’s the alternator. I don’t know what it is, I just need it fixed.
– I wish I knew that stuff, I just put mine in the shop and they know what’s up.

Still nothing from the engine, but the interior lights come on. Do you have some heavy-duty jumper cables? I have cables but I don’t know what duty they are, they look the same as yours. No, they’re better. Red to red, black to black. Nothing. We wait a while. Now. I rev to 3000, watching the temperature gauge on my own shitbox, because if it goes above middle I have to swipe the lever to red and the fan to 4 and bake and sweat. On 4 I can’t hear his engine well enough to know if it’s working. Everything is fumes inside. I step out again. I open the 49¢ Faygo diet coke I just bought. It is warm and terrible.

– Can you give it another five minutes?

I can give it another five minutes.

Five minutes. And then the Infiniti starts. He revs it up. I disconnect the cables: red then red, black then black. It feels as if it wants to give up, but keeps going. You good? I’m good. You sure? I’m sure.

– I just need this shit fixed.
– You just look after yourself.

I still can’t do the elbow-and-up handshake properly, feel self-conscious about not knowing, but I know to put my thumb out.