Ian is the car that I use most of the time, that I am supposed to fill up with P1,000 worth of gas every month.
This morning, Mama noticed that Ian's right rear tire was extremely flat. (I think I may have bumped in and out of a few holes on the way home from St. Paul's yesterday, but I didn't tell them that.)
I know how how to weave in and out of traffic, avoid obnoxious jeepneys, and attempt to parallel park. But I had never changed a flat tire.
The first time I ever had a flat tire, I was on my way to a date. The man driving a white van in the lane next to mine pointed to my right front tire. As I felt the tire flatten and begin to skid, a gas station materialized. I drove into it, smiled sweetly at an attendant, and gave him P20 for changing my tire.
Now it was time to do it on my own.
"Can you really do it?" Papa asked.
Mama said that the lug nuts were really hard to loosen. They were. I could only manage a few twists with the wrench, before Papa had to take over. He also helped me unscrew the spare tire from the truck, and put the jack in place under a fin, near the wheel.
But I did everything else. I lugged the spare tire from the trunk and turned the jack clockwise to lift the car.
It took a lot of turns. There I was, sitting on my butt on a wet patch of slime in the driveway, turning the jack. In between my outstretched legs, an ant slowly scurried on the cracked concrete, next to a wilted golden leaf.
(Is this why some guys love to work on cars? Because the rest of the world falls away as they fiddle under the hood?)
After the car was lifted a few inches off the ground, I took off the flat tire and heaved a new one into its place. Then I screwed on the lug nuts and tightened them as best as I could. Papa only had to grunt a few times as he gave them a final twist.
My butt was wet, my hands were greasy, and I had grime up to my elbow. I felt good.
There are times when we don't get along too well, Papa and I. We are too much alike -- impatient, quick-tempered, volatile. We have a tendency to to dictate, and to speak authoritatively even when we don't know much about a subject. And we always have to have the last say in an argument.
Yet in between the tense moments, the strained silences, the harsh exchanges of words, there are also afternoons like this.
Just me, Papa and Ian.