Wednesday, June 29, 2005

between showers

Last night as I drove a couple of hospo nimrods up Devonshire Street in Surry Hills I saw a small car, perhaps a BMW, coming very fast down the hill towards me. And too close, way too close. There was a loud bang and all three of us cried out at once. But all he'd hit was the wing mirror on the driver's side. Those mirrors are sprung, so it snapped inwards. When I wound down the window and snapped it back, I realised it was broken. The glass was still in the frame but there was a four or five facetted star in the centre of the mirror. I called my boss, who suggested I drive out to his place in Ashfield so he could replace it. Take two minutes, he said. Bob's minutes are generally quarter of an hour, plus it was another half hour to get out there. He probably would have given me fifteen dollars downtime, but I could make three times that in an hour, so I decided just to keep going. But the car ... went out in sympathy. Every time the revs dropped, it stalled. If you put it in gear, it would take an age to engage, if it engaged at all. I limped with a fare to Elizabeth Bay then called Bob again. He suggested I look at the hoses under the bonnet. One was a bit loose, so I fixed it on properly but the car still wouldn't go. Take a walk, he said. I wandered round a park down there, smoking a gadang garam. It was greeny dark, everything dripping, the white lights glimmering like in a Delvaux painting. There was a van full of sleeping hippies, the only one awake was the woman at the wheel, reading a book. A guy sitting on the backrest of a park bench talking on his mobile. An old gent in an overcoat, with umbrella, who looked like the fare the radio had just offered me. When I returned to the car it fired up normally and behaved itself until I knocked off about one thirty. A mystery. But for the rest of the night my rearview was a cubist composition of headlights in the rain, distracting both because it was difficult to judge exactly what cars were there and how close they were and also because it was visually intriguing. I kept drifting off into speculative reconstructions of exactly how the shards reflected the images ... perhaps not the best way to negotiate a rainy night in the old town. Nonetheless, the image has stayed with me, as if the composition in the rearview was somehow analogous to the way we see the past, trying to make sense of what's back there in a broken mirror.