brain damage

There are little black smudges throughout my house, not everywhere, just on the door frames of the bathroom and the back outside door, the handle of the fridge, the microwave door and the lever of the kitchen faucet. These appear anytime I’m working on a machine. Lately that’s been two – a motorcycle and an SUV.

The smudges clean up pretty quickly leaving no trace of my movements nor my grunginess; nothing left behind to attest to whatever mechanical victory or defeat happened, save for two vehicles that are back on the road or still on the pad awaiting yet another part from Amazon.

Every time I find myself under the hood or on my butt beside my bike I wonder why I do this, not the smudges, but yet another attempt at correcting what miles and time have done to my ability to go. The first answer is easy, pragmatic. I can’t afford a mechanic. The second answer isn’t because I enjoy it.

It dawned on me last night while watching the film, Seven Pounds with my daughter on New Year’s Eve. We watched this to redeem ourselves from seeing Collateral Beauty earlier that eve. The latter was contrived and patronizing using a storyline involving the death of a child and throwing in some plot twists to turn into something it had no business being, a blockbuster (spoiler ahead) that neatly puts everything back into place after that unnatural disruption. I wanted to stand during the credits and flip the screen the bird, but I wasn’t near the projection window. I think I know what I’m doing tonight.  

I was hoping for another Seven Pounds (2008), also a Will Smith film that deals with an excruciating disruption, a film that dares justify suicide while it relentlessly hammers your tear ducts. But it wasn’t. And I know I bring my own bags to this and see it differently. It’s my brain damage.

Collateral Beauty does have a moment when Smith’s character declares that nothing can assuage his grief of losing his little girl. He’s cut to the core, brain damaged beyond the salve of religion, prayers, warm thoughts and divine interventions that have worked their magic on others. There you go. That’s what it’s like.

Smith’s character in Seven Pounds (spoiler ahead) fixes a machine, a printing press. He’s a closet mechanical engineer and works his magic on an obsolete device, bringing it back to life and utility. And there it was, streaming on the little screen of my MacBook Air in front of my daughter and me. I work on machines with the hope that they’ll outlive me, much like my dreams for the young woman beside me.

Maybe it’s a legacy-thing, better done on vehicles not made in Italy. It’s wonky, I know, evidence of my brain damage, but there’s a little comfort in getting something back on the road that has more miles left in it than I. Maybe I’ll leave the smudges behind as well.



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