I put the car in reverse and then wondered if my brakes were rusted again. But I hadn't set the parking brake when I had parked on the end of the block under the big oak tree a week ago. I was into the habit of not setting the brake when I was leaving the car for more than a couple of days. Of course, I had forgotten the last time, which had prompted a man out walking his spaniel to look at me oddly as I took a hammer to my back wheels to knock the rusted breaks loose. That wasn't the case this time, as I added a little gas to the reverse and finally moved, but in a clunking, jolting motion. I took the key out of the ignition and go out. The front, passenger wheel was on the ground.
An hour later I was carefully bouncing up and down on the lug nut wrench, hand balanced on the hood, both feet and all of my weight balanced on the foot long piece of steel. I was getting exactly nowhere. I had gotten two nuts off using this method. Of course, after the first one, the jack had slipped, the car had fallen, and I'd had to jack the entire thing back up, with much cursing and grunting. "Where the hell is a goddamnned cop when you need one? They patrol this block like clockwork, but today, nooooo....Maybe I ought to get me one of those guy-type people, boyfriend or something. But dammit, I'm a strong, ahh, independent, rahh, woman, mahh. SOB, F'ing, no good POS, bleep, bleep, bleep...."
But I had jacked it up twice, and it was a damned good thing I understood the principles of leverage and the proper placement of a fulcrum, otherwise I would have gotten exactly no where. As it was, I had managed to turn the jack handle by applying all my weight, balanced forward on my toes, and (minuscule) upper body stretch, and pressing down against the edge of the concrete curb. And now I was at an impasse with the last two nuts and since all I had was one-hundred and twenty-five pounds and gravity working for me my prospects were slim.
I was still working at it when a couple walked by on Sixteenth Street. The guys was nice enough to come over and apply his considerably greater upper body strength to loosen the last two nuts. As her significant other stood waiting, I said thank you and told him I could take it from there. As I was fitting the donut, a nice guy in a beat up old pickup (I have a soft spot for beat up old pickups) stopped. He had tattoos up both arms and he wasn't interested in my protestations. He simply grabbed the jack handle and then took the nuts and tightened down the donut while I slung the flat into my trunk and cleaned up the tools.
"Thank you," I said for probably the sixth time, holding out my hand. "I'm Monica."
"I'm George," he said in a light Spanish accent. "I just moved to Lincoln." He seemed shy and spoke quietly.
"Well, welcome. I hope you like it here."
He just knodded and climbed into his truck.
A few hours later, I was in Omaha. I had dropped my car off at Graham Tire and Auto a few blocks up and my folks had come to get me. No hurry, I had told Graham, I didn't usually need my car during the week. Brandon and April were at my parents house when we got back. My sister-in-law and I decided to run an errand to Hobby Lobby before the movie. I inspected the rising bruise on my right forearm. It was swelling but I didn't even remember doing it.
"It probably won't even turn purple." I complained. "It's not fair. It's gonna hurt so I should at least get a descent battle scar out of it."
"Yeah, Brandon doesn't bruise either. It's damned annoying," April agreed.
Later we were walking through the jewelry supply aisles of the giant hobby store. April and I are both aspiring writers and we were swapping stories and ideas. I told her that I had started writing about the fencing club and the description of the costume she had worn to that Halloween party was going to be in there. That was the party I had dragged Brandon to where they had met.
"I smacked him on the ass and liked the sound it made," April told me. We both laughed.
"You're the one I needed this morning. You would have had that tire changed in fifteen minutes flat," I told her.
"Yep. Brandon's pretty useless for that stuff. I end up doing all of it," she confirmed, then smiled dryly. April could easily snap my skinny, geeky brother in half like a twig. "But he's good for other things."
Being a strong woman has nothing to do with physical strength. It doesn't even have to do with being independent. I think it has to do with not being afraid, not being afraid that asking for or accepting help will make you anything less. The really cool thing about our relationships with other people is the balance that we find. It's not even that we fill in each other's holes or missing pieces, it's just this beautiful willingness to help each other by using what skills we have in the ways we can. Whether that person is your family, husband, or a complete stranger, doesn't even matter all that much. I have a feeling a dozen people would have stopped to help me with that wheel had I not been hidden behind my car, where the traffic going down Sixteenth couldn't see me.
That's what keeps the wheel turning, that willingness to help each other even when we don't quite know why.