Austin to Chicago, pt. 4: A Welcoming Feeling

I have a distrusting nature. I don’t know, nor really care, what it stems from. I do know that it is well intact and with age it just grows and wraps its ivies around every part of my being. If my eyes aren’t giving enough to a stranger then my mouth takes over.

Keep Going

A gentleman appeared out of nowhere while I once again checked the trunk for something that may have fixed my predicament. His car was parked in front of mine and what with the woosh of traffic nullifying approaching footsteps’ warning sounds so as to prepare I was a bit surprised at the sudden sound of his voice.

“You alright?” He was probably in his 50s, averagely dressed, pushed his glasses up more than usual.

“Yeah. Well, I mean I got a flat but things will be fine.” I clenched the tire iron while rummaging through the trunk for nothing.

“Oh, okay. Your spare okay? You changed a tire before?”

“Well, no. The spare is flat. But, yeah, I’ve changed a tire.” For some reason I couldn’t, nor can’t, lie. All of the lying I did as a child used up all the nonchalance I had about it and now it just brings guilt. In addition, I rarely find an instance where a lie is actually needed.

“You know…somewhere up there, right off this next exit…on 145th street, I think, is an auto parts store. They probably have something that will help.”

It was at that point where I truly realized I was. South side Chicago. Not the safest place for a white boy like myself. Not the entire south side, mind you, just this part of the south side. “No, that’s alright. My friend is on his way with a spare. I appreciate the kind gesture, though.” That was an instance where I felt the need to lie.

“Are you sure? I mean I can give you a ride.”

Every gesture he made I read into. I sized him up and envisioned myself murdered and Emma sitting and peering into the noisy night whimpering. “No, no. Help is on the way.” Knuckles white on the tire iron now and animal instinct not thinking twice about bashing his skull in. Preemptive, maybe, but one must be prepared. Of course this all may just be my own paranoia and pride passing up any help that may come that night.

“Well, good luck to you.”

“Thanks. And thanks for stopping.”

Okay. Alone, now. Safe, now. What, now?

I went back to the driver’s seat and put my hand on Emma’s head to let her know that everything would be alright and wished that there was a hand on mine. I smoked a cigarette even though I didn’t want one. I pulled up the GPS map on my phone and watched the pulsating blue dot knowing full well that it would just make me feel worse.

I am so close to what I have missed for so long. Being stranded after a night of drinking always would allow my legs to venture in whatever direction I felt was right to eventually end up in a familiar place. Now in this multi-ton wheelchair I was stranded.

I wanted the world to disappear. Here I was needing even more help. How could I explain it to my friends? I couldn’t even explain it to my dog.

Finally, the phone rang.


“Yeah, hey, Johnny.”

“What happened?”

“I got a flat. Man, I am here, but, yeah, I got a flat.”

“Okay…where are you?”

I explained my coordinates and he promised to be there in a few. I felt like shit. This tire I just purchased, yes, but maybe there was something else. Alignment. Or something. Man, it turns out I am bad at life. I can fix a leaky faucet and write about metal but can’t travel cross country. At least not without making it a headache for my friends. They were the ones that made this possible and guilt ridden.

“Mile marker 145.”

“I’ll be there in about 20.”

I have criss-crossed this country time and time again. Hitchhiked through the mountains. South to north, east to west. At this point, though, I felt nowhere. This is not how I pictured my homecoming, nor anyone else’s. Leaving was a burden, and coming home was even moreso.

I sat on the trunk and held Emma, the only one dumb enough to love me at this point, and watched the cars go by. I had set up a flashing light for Johnny to find when he comes around the interstate bend and just waited for the sign. My eyes looked down at my shoes and my mind punched me. I never intended to be such a fuck up, really, and I don’t feel that I am, through and through, but it still crosses my mind.

I made bad choices. Now it is on the shoulders of my friends, unbenknownst to them. Goddamn me. This was not my intention. God, no, never.

Johnny shows up. “What happened?”

“I went flat.”

“No. I mean what did you do to deserve this?”

“I’ve been thinking that. I am so sorry.” His stature was forgiving, welcoming, and tired. I opened my arms and he accepted knowing both that he will have work to do, for his friend, and that he may have should’ve written me off long ago. “So what’s up with this tire?”

“I was hoping your spare would do the trick.”

“Let’s see.”

The spare didn’t work. Volvo, my car, thought it would be great to make only THEIR spares applicable. While Sweden was wonderful in their metal and car design, their roadside assistance was something else entirely. EnTIREly.

Brainstorm time. The solution must be made. And it will only be by johnny’s mind mixed with mine. I love him for this.

“Nora’s (his girlfriend) mom lives on the southside not too far from here. Let’s just put the spare on it and hobble it there. Hold on, let me call and see if it’s okay.”

I, again, looked at the traffic and felt like such a loser. All these people had their shit together and I was just here. Stranded. Again, depending on people.

“It’s cool. Let’s just get your car off the highway.”

“Thank you. What are we gonna do?”

“Hobble this to Nora’s mom’s house.”

“Cool. I love you.”

“I know, man. Welcome home.”

“I am so sorry.” His next words would define my next six months.

“I know. I don’t know what you did but you fucked up.”

He followed me as I hobbled along the highway (after trying to change the tire to his spare) with his hazards on. I rode the shoulder and pulled off at a gas station. “Shit, man.”


“It’s shredded. Fuck.”

I changed the tire again (at this point five times) to the original and decided to ride it to his girlfriend’s mom’s house. Though it was only a few miles from here, I was driving an a completely flat tire and the southside of Chicago was all about telling me about it.

“Hey, man…you’re flat!”

“Go faster!”


We finally pulled in and knocked on the door. The welcoming arms were precious and I almost cried, again.

“Wow, welcome home, Luc.”

“Thank you.”

“So, yeah, park it here and get your shit fixed tomorrow. Deal?”

“Yes, deal.”

Johnny, in his brilliance, says, “I love how I told you the situation on the phone and you had no problem with it.”

“Oh, yeah. Totally fine.”

This is why I love Chicago.


2 Responses to “Austin to Chicago, pt. 4: A Welcoming Feeling”
  1. Amber says:

    Fuck up or not, we’re glad you’re home!

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