Mark lunged forward as the car crunched to a stop up against the street lamp. Sighing, he rolled down his window and leaned out to a young bystander for assistance.
‘Excuse me, Miss, I wonder if you could help me?’
Mark had known that the car would be just right for him the moment the sales assistant had described it as blue-grey. The ambiguity added considerably to its appeal. That had been three months ago, before a deliberate delay which had allowed Mark to modify the vehicle to further suit his needs. He was careful to take his custom to a different garage each time. Three months might be a long time for other young men to wait, especially where cars were concerned, but the persistent passage of time held no sway over Mark.
There were no calendars with a daily motto or amusing joke hung up in his bare maisonette. And there were no clocks either. He did, however, wear a single antique watch fob around his neck, an abandoned gift from his absent father. The rest of his possessions, he had sold. He liked the cleanness of his living arrangements. Simple beige bed sheets, bare wooden floors, a single rail for his minimal clothes. The emptiness pleased him.
But a car, a car was different. In his static cave he could be true to himself, but out there required a different approach. The salesman that day had been of great assistance. As they were a similar age, Mark had taken care to memorise the various inflections and gestures this example presented. Later, in the mirror, Mark didn’t feel foolish as he forced the corners of his mouth up towards his cheeks, taking care to ensure that the false emotion spread to his eyes. Mark used his many hours of free time for such observation and practise. He could now smile, hold a conversation, and even laugh if he needed to. Crying had yet to be attempted, though he had observed it often.
Sometimes, Mark felt like Goldilocks, always searching for one that was just right. Most men would balk at the comparison, preferring to be likened to the frightful Daddy Bear instead. But not Mark. He had spent a long time perfecting his act, he wouldn’t want to appear big, or scary. That would defeat the point.
That afternoon, Mark drove his blue-grey car down one of the quieter streets. In spite of his fastidious nature he had carefully rumpled some wrappers around the vehicle and placed a row of small stuffed toys on the parcel shelf. He felt it gave the right impression. As he followed his choice, he ensured that his eyes stayed straight ahead as if otherwise concerned. It didn’t take much for him to orchestrate the small crash, and as he pulled slowly over, he rolled down his window and smiled his practised smile.
‘Excuse me, Miss, I wonder if you could help me.’
Gaynor Jones is a stay at home Mum and freelance writer from Manchester UK.
She tweets at @jonzeywriter.