An Imaginary Person Who Runs Alongside the Car | By Lydia Trethewey

When it comes to cars, Lisa and her uncle have differing opinions. But it seems both enjoy arguing.

An Imaginary Person Who Runs Alongside the Car

By Lydia Trethewey

For the Custom Rims Award


Lisa and her uncle were at it again. The rest of the family tried to ignore the heated argument, sitting around the BBQ on Aunty Carrol’s new decking. Sometimes it was politics; Uncle Pete’s unswerving belief in the conservative Liberal Party got under Lisa’s greenie skin. Other times it was faith; Lisa’s staunch atheism antagonised Pete’s strict catholicism, and vice versa. Today it was cars. The other family members sat out from the petty conflict, chewing peaceably on their steak and sausages whilst opting for more palatable conversation about a recent trip to Bali and a cousin’s upcoming wedding.

“It’s the joy of seeing how it all works,” said Pete, chomping on a chicken drumstick “You don’t know cars until you’ve taken one apart and put it back together.”

Uncle Pete had been a mechanic before he retired, and could still be found tinkering in his workshop.

“But we’re talking about driving, not how the car works,” said Lisa, wiping her mouth with a serviette. “The feeling of freedom, of being able to go anywhere.”

Pete snorted.

“If you want to experience driving, learn stick.”

Lisa bristled.

“I’d be happy to teach you,” he continued “come by the workshop and I can show you what a car really is; a beautiful piece of art, a force to be reckoned with.”

“That’s a Boys Club mentality. You’re not talking about roads that lead wherever you want, actually being in a car. You’re fetishising the car as an object, something to be coveted and hidden away in a garage. It’s driving that makes the car what it is.”

Pete chewed on a particularly gristly piece of steak.

“You’re not listening to me Lisa. I’m talking about understanding how a car works.”

“And I’m talking about the experience of car travel. Even a child in the backseat knows the joy of movement; the landscape like bands of colour when you look down at the road, the raindrops racing each other on the window, winding daydreams around street signs. Did you ever used to imagine a person running alongside the car, matching you? The wonder of car travel is accessible to everyone, not just an elite group of fanatics locked away in a garage.”

Pete grunted.

“Didn’t think I’d see the day when the humble mechanic was regarded as a fanatic.”

The rest of the family chatted on, their conversation a thin veneer above their unease at the two debaters.

Lisa sighed. “For me, the car is an experience, not an object.”

Pete exhaled resignedly through his wide nostrils and said no more on the matter. Instead the two sparring relations turned their attention to Bali, and weddings.

When Lisa got in her car to drive home she felt around with her foot for where the third pedal might go. Pete’s words coiled inside her, fuelling her indignation.

She turned the key in the ignition, felt the car come to life. Carefully she pulled out of the driveway onto the cul de sac, angling herself towards the highway.

Checking the inverted world in her mirror, Lisa slid into the sparse traffic and wound her window down. A rush of air filled her ears above the reassuring hum of the engine, lifting her mood. As she glided homewards Lisa relaxed into the rhythm of driving, her anger slipping away with the wind.

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