The check engine light within

“Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”


This morning, right after I filled up the gas tank, I turned on my car and it did a weird little half-start and the check engine light glowered at me. “Wonderful,” I thought, “I’m so glad I had the transmission serviced recently.” I debated with myself about whether to go home and complain to my daddy or take my chances and complete the drive to work.

As I left, I became convinced that there was something wrong with the car. “There’s more slack than usual in the gas pedal,” I mused. “Something’s not right.”

I pulled over and decided to  re-start the thing. I was so nervous that I turned the engine off without putting it in park first.

Well, I got going again. I was on the freeway, watching the tachometer like a hawk and listening for weird noises. That was about as methodical as I could get about the whole thing, considering that my knowledge of the internal combustion engine and whatnot is severely lacking. Everything seemed normal enough, and then the light just went off by itself about thirty minutes later.

I’d say there’s a possibility that there was never anything mechanically wrong with the car in the first place. It being a newer car built in 2012, it has all these fancy computers. Maybe it’s too smart for its own good.

Why did I tell you this boring story about something that has happened to a lot of people? I guess because it got me thinking about sci-fi stuff and my friend, the sympathetic nervous system. And the line between perception and reality that may or may not exist, depending on whom you ask.

I guess my car and I were meant for each other because I’ve got an overactive check engine light too. At the slightest provocation, I can create worlds of terror out of bad memories while anxiety punches me in the stomach so hard I can’t breathe and depression holds down my arms and legs in its own vague, ghosty way so that I hardly notice it on account of the punching. And then, I open my eyes after the pain settles, and nothing is there. Everything is eerily normal.

And Stella’s car glides merrily along the freeway.






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