Nick and Amy have been married for seventeen years and in all those years they have only ever bought two new cars because Nick is of the opinion that you should buy a car and drive it until the engine literally drops out on the side of the highway, preferably on the way home from the in-laws on a major holiday. But Nick and Amy’s daughter Stella has an important birthday soon and the car Nick drives, and has been driving since Stella was still baking in his wife’s uterus, has been promised to that new driver as soon as the license hits her hot, little sixteen-year-old hand.
A year ago, Nick was excited to get a new car. He was tired of pulling into his assigned parking spot at work between the BMW and Range Rover his co-workers sported, but lately the idea of having a car payment again after years of having none makes him very anxious and keeping him up at night. So anxious in fact, he has a spreadsheet on his computer with all the days of the year divided out and assigned in case his daughter will agree to sharing the car with him. He thinks there’s a good chance he can convince his wife what a good idea it is if she has a few drinks first. Of course, he’s said nothing to her of it though because there’s still plenty of time before Stella turns sixteen, seven whole days.
“Babe?” Amy lolls her head towards him as they drive down the highway. Only minutes from leaving the movie theater where they held hands and stole kisses in the darkened theater like teenagers, she is hoping to savor the twenty minutes between them on the car ride home before they open the door on whatever wrath is awaiting them with their three kids. “What kind of car should we buy when we give Stella your car next week? It’s been so long since we even looked at new cars. Aren’t you excited?”
Her hand is across the center console of the car and about to squeeze the inside of Nick’s thigh, something that always makes him giggle like a teenage boy, when he lashes out.
“I can tell you that whatever we buy isn’t going to be brand new! Only an idiot would buy a brand-new car. In fact, I’m not sure we even need another car. Stella and I could share. And I’m thinking of biking to work every day instead of driving.” His voice is shrill and rude, and he knows it, but Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials flushing his hard-earned dollar bills down the toilet keeps popping into his mind and he just can’t let that happen.
“Excuse me?” Amy asks, snatching her hand away and bolting upright in her seat, her jaw immediately sets. He knows this look and he’s regretting not letting her do the thing with her hand on his thigh first before he blurted that out. “I was unaware the decision was yours alone. Also, the two cars we currently own were brand new when we bought them, so does that make us idiots.” She crosses her arms and her legs and he knows that’s not a good sign.
“Amy…” Nick stammers.
“Yes, Nick?” she answers icily as she examines her fingernails.
“It’s just that I’ve been doing some research and it seems like having another car, plus adding another driver to our insurance and all that is going to be more expensive. It’s a lot of money. You know how I hate that.”
“I do know you hate it, Nick. But this is something we’ve been talking about for a year. Our kids are growing up and we told her she could have the car. You told me you wanted a new car because yours is old and rusted and embarrassing to drive to work.”
“Well, I was thinking that maybe we could paint it and maybe get some cool rims, spruce it up a little bit and then we could share it.”
“Nick, you never get home before six from work. She needs a car to get to work before then. Sharing isn’t going to work.” Amy leans back into her seat, thankful she can see the exit up ahead because it is taking everything in her power to not open the door and roll out of it because she is practically vibrating with rage.
“Then I think I’m going to try riding my bike to work. I bet I won’t even miss having a car,” Nick stubbornly juts his chin out, psyching himself up for his new green alternative plan he’s just pulled out of his butt. He’s never actually ridden his bike the thirteen miles to work, but there’s a trail that leads him almost all the way there and he’s in good shape.
“Fine,” Amy says, opening the door before he’s even come to a complete stop in their driveway. The door slams as he puts the car in park and he sighs. He usually likes it when she’s spicy, but it’s more fun when she’s spicy with someone else.
Rivers of sweat begin to roll down Nick’s back the second he steps out the back door and he curses under his breath, low enough so Amy doesn’t overhear him. Of course, the day of his maiden bike-to-work voyage would dawn in the nineties with one hundred percent humidity, but he said he was riding his bike, so he’s riding the damn bike. Amy approached him again last week, pointing out the significant sales at several of the car dealerships in the newspaper, even extended an olive branch by agreeing to look at the newer used cars instead of brand new, but he had held fast to his bike riding plan. The newspapers were still scattered on the dining room table, big red circles drawn around the cars that his younger children thought looked fun and that’s where he was going to leave them. They’re all ganging up on me, he thinks to himself with disgust.
Button in hand, the garage door opens and there stands his shining bicycle. Amy’s bicycle actually, because his from college had two flat tires, the chain literally disintegrated into a pile of rust when he yanked on it, and the frame was horribly bent so it’s currently sitting behind the garage in the make shift dump along with an old tire swing and some shelving Amy won’t allow in the house. Nick wheels it down the driveway where his family is assembled in their pajamas to see him off.
“Daddy, where’s your helmet?” his ten-year-old daughter Sophie calls to him.
“Well, I’m not sure I’m going to wear one,” Nick admits bashfully, embarrassed of the reason. He doesn’t want to mess up his hair.
“You have to wear a helmet, Dad,” thirteen-year-old Peter chimes in. “We care about your brain more than we care about a good hair day, right Dad?” he adds the very speech Nick and Amy have been giving their kids since they became teenagers and started complaining.
“That’s right!” Nick says through gritted teeth. “That was a test for you guys and you passed. Mom and Stella apparently don’t care about my brain.”
“What brain?” Stella mutters under her breath and Amy gives her an elbow in the ribs.
“Honey, are you sure about this? It’s pretty hot already and it’s a long ride,” Amy asks sympathetically as she takes a sip of coffee from her mug, but inside she’s enjoying watching him sweat through his dress shirt. He’s so damn stubborn, she thinks to herself.
All this just so he doesn’t have to buy a car.
“Okay then,” Nick says as he throws his leg over the bike, “I’m off, just as soon as I adjust this a little bit.” Tugging at his messenger bag that contains his laptop and lunch, he swivels it around so it’s resting on his back, but his pens and a notepad clatter to the ground through an open zipper.
Sophie rushes to his aid and gathers his office supplies. Stuffing them back in and zipping it securely for him, she steps back and shakes her hand off. “Daddy! You’re so sweaty! Gross!”
“Thank you, sweetheart,” Nick responds stoically as he yanks down his helmet down and buckles it under his chin, pushes off and begins peddling down the driveway. Amy and the kids cock their heads as he rounds the corner and his messenger bag swings hard to the front causing Nick to swerve.
“You alright, Babe?” Amy shouts down the street with sugary sweet concern, but Nick only responds with a single finger gesture over his head. Amy chuckles as she ushers the kids back inside to the air conditioning.
By the time Nick gets to work, his once crisp white dress shirt is clinging to his sopping body and he’s dripping a trail of sweat along the glossy lobby tiles. After getting his pant legs tangled in the bike chain twice within the first mile of his ride, Nick had tucked his cuffs into his dress socks, but he doesn’t realize they were still tucked in until he steps into the mirrored elevator and gets a look at just how bad the reality of his appearance is. Not only are his pants terribly wrinkled, they’re also ringed with bike grease around the ankles and he can feel the moisture pooled in the bottoms of his expensive leather loafers. His helmet is also still on, askew and threatening to slip off the back of his head, but as he takes it off, it looks like he’s just gotten out of the shower and he groans loudly.
The elevator bell dings loudly, announcing his arrival. “Jesus, is it always this loud?” Nick thinks to himself when he steps onto his floor and Susan from accounting looks up in alarm. Now that he’s in the cool temperatures of his office, he’s acutely aware of the fact that his underwear are completely soaked through, most likely seeping through his khakis, and he could swear they’re making a squishy sponge sound as he hurries toward the bathroom. Pulling the bathroom door open, Nick prays there is a stall open inside.
“Hallelujah,” he whispers loudly when he’s alone the restroom and he claims the biggest stall for what he’s about to do.
There’s no hesitation as Nick shimmies out of his pants streaked with sweat, and he hangs them from the hook on the back of the bathroom door, hoping maybe they’ll iron themselves out and dry in the next five minutes. Next is the underwear, Nick peels them away from his body like a second skin.
“Oh God,” Nick mutters as he stands naked from the waist down in a five by five foot cube and wrings out his jockey shorts into the toilet. He squats a few times and shakes his junk back and forth in an attempt to dry out his nether regions, but nothing is really working. He’s as slick as a sea lion in here.
“You okay in there, man?” a concerned voice calls from a few stalls down and Nick freezes, his head immediately falls back and he looks up to heaven in total disbelief that someone is witnessing this.
“It’s fine,” Nick calls back, then he opens his mouth and lets out a silent scream of horror.
Standing stock still in only his dress shirt clinging to his abdomen, he knows that if anyone walks past his stall, they’ll be able to see his hairy, bare butt through the crack of the door. One deep breath and then another, he’s hoping his bathroom friend finishes and gets the hell out of here, but no luck. Reaching down to pull off his shoes, Nick kicks them out of the way and peels his socks from his feet. The stench of sweaty feet causes his to gag twice because gross things always makes him dry heave, but he manages to wring each sock out over the toilet and drapes each over the back of the toilet.
“Oh my God, man,” the disgusted voice calls again as a toilet flushes.
“Mind your business,” Nick shouts in utter humiliation over the sound of the faucet running, but now he’s pissed. “I rode my bike thirteen miles today, okay.” As if he could even begin to explain this, he growls to himself as the door slams closed.
Sweat is still rolling off him, and the stress of standing half naked in a stall at his place of employment isn’t helping the perspiration problem. Shrugging off his dress shirt, he shakes it out a few times, but it’s as wet as a beach towel so he tosses it over the top of the stall. Nick looks down at himself to assess the situation. It’s not good, he has to admit. Buck naked, barefoot, and still slimy with sweat, he fishes his cell phone from the pocket of his damp khakis hanging on the back of the door and dials the only person who can help him.
“Hi Baby! How was the ride in?” she asks the second she picks up, and he knows that she knows.
“Fine. A little hot,” he answers calmly.
“I’ve got a little situation here and I need your help,” he says.
“Did you forget your lunch?” Her voice has a hint of sarcasm to it.
“Nope, I’ve got that. Listen, I’m going to need you to bring me a pair of pants, clean underwear, some socks, an undershirt, a dress shirt and the biggest damn stick of deodorant you can find, and I need it now.
“Ok. Anything else, honey?” He can hear her muffled laughing with her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone and he wants to be angry, but he’s fully naked at work and it’s so absurd, so he can’t be.
“I’m also going to need you to bring it into the men’s room on the seventh floor because I’m totally naked in the stall. Okay?”
“Got it, Babe. Is that it?”
“There might also be a man standing outside waiting to see who the man is who he thinks shit himself in the bathroom. Can you tell him to go the hell back to work and mind his business?”
“Will do, Babe.”
“One more thing,” Nick says, scratching his bare butt and leaning his sweaty forehead against the cool bathroom door in defeat, “let’s go buy a new car tonight.”