You’re in a car, right. You’ve no other way of travelling. Seems a bit ridiculous, being tied to a car all the time. Specially one that breaks down as often as this one. Specially as it runs on fumes, all the time. It’s never full, never half empty. Always dipping into the red, or hovering slightly above it. It’s rarely a quarter full.
You’ve got to travel 10km a week. You have to, to survive. But you mostly only manage 4km a week, if even that. Not your fault. Car’s always in the red. You get less than 1km over a number of days. That’s all you get, on the days the car decides it can go, to
Into the tank. It’s never enough. You spend all your time eyeing the meter as you go about your tasks. You pass people in cars with full tanks, half full tanks. They always miss the panic in your eyes. They miss the fleeting glances at the meter as you drive slowly, carefully. You want to go faster, but any increase in speed makes that needle drop into E faster than you’re prepared for. Those drops of fuel have to get you there and back. Wherever there is. No matter how far away it is, really. You’ve limited fuel.
The Full-Tanks mention how they haven’t seen you in a while.
“Your car looks great. Mustn’t have been breaking down as often as it used to,” they say. They don’t know it’s just spent a week sitting in your front garden. Unmoving. It would not accept the fuel. Those drops dribbled onto the ground and were swallowed whole by the earth. They’re gone for good. There’s no stockpiling. There’s no getting back what you’ve lost.
“Would it not make more sense to wait a few days, use up a few day’s worth of fuel so you can do more in one go?” Full-Tanks ask. You shake your head. They do not understand. Each vial of fuel is tightly sealed. To open one ahead of time is to spend your life borrowing your meagre fuel, until you hit a wall of days where the car does not move.
Your hands grip the wheel. This is always uncomfortable. The Full-Tanks rarely drop below Half-Tanks. They get to be Quarter-Tanks sometimes, if something happens to stop the purr of the engine running smoothly. A stuttering of the clutch. The engine turning over without warning. It happens to everyone. You know it does. But they look at their quarter-tanks and look at you and say
And maybe you smile, and nod. Grip the wheel harder. It’s easier to agree. In truth, they can’t know. You’d never suggest someone was not suffering with a quarter-tank, but there are days when you’d kill for more than fumes. Especially days when those fumes do not last the full 1km. Reversing uses up the same amount of fuel. The engine still runs when the car stops.
There’s other cars like yours out there, though. And their owners try their hardest to reach you, and you them. You can always tell when they’ve been stuck in the garden.
Maybe some day you’ll get to go your 10km without a second thought. Maybe you won’t. You’ll never own a different car.