The Tire Light
He turned around and started toward my car. Now that his face was visible, I could tell that he wasn't any older than me, probably even a bit younger. His hair looked like he’d cut it himself, and he had no facial hair or sign of any. He had a young face I imagined made getting girls' numbers a breeze.
I was wearing a button-up shirt with a tie because that was the dress code for Fridays at my school. As the boy approached me, I noticed him shoot a glance at my shoes, my white Clarks, before looking up and greeting me.
"What can I do for you?" He said.
"I just need some air in my tires."
"Sure," he said, grabbing the pump. "I've been getting these all week. Something to do with the temperature change." He took off the cap of the first tire. "You know how much pressure's supposed to go in these?"
I frowned. "I think I forgot. It's been a while."
He went to the driver's side door and tried to open it, but it was locked. I unlocked it and he held it open it for a second to look at some writing at the bottom I hadn't noticed before.
He closed the door and began the process of gauging the pressure of each tire and filling them with air.
I stood above him with my hand in my back pocket, watching as he knelt in front of me, working on my car.
Across the back of his left hand was a dark grey smudge, and his right hand had a yellow band-aid wrapped around it.
Feeling uncomfortable with the silence, I tried to make conversation. "So what school you go to?" I asked.
"Milton," he said back.
Milton High was a public school down the road.
"Oh," I said.
He had finished the second tire by now and was going around the back of my car to the third. While going around the back, he spotted my school parking sticker.
He laughed. "You go to Payne Prep?" He said.
"Aren’t y’all the school that recruits?"
"For football? I don't think so. Coach claims not to, at least."
"We'll kick your ass anyway," he said without a smile, without anything to let me know that he realized the ridiculousness of what he’d just said. The chances of that happening were slim to none what with the coaching we had and facilities but I didn't say anything back. Just watched him crawl to the last tire.
"You're all set," he said, standing up now and putting his gauge back in his pocket.
I had my wallet out now.
"What do I owe you?" I asked.
"Nothing," he said. "It's free."
"Oh, I said, but since I already had my wallet out, I took out a five dollar bill and handed it to him without looking him in the eye.
He took it, looked up at me with his lips slightly parted and his eyebrows slightly furrowed, and for a split second something strange happened, something uncanny where each of us looked at the other and switched places, inhabited the other's body, mind, and life just for a moment before time continued again.
I let go of the five dollar bill and he took it. He nodded at me, and I nodded back. We understood each other. We saw who we were.
"Thanks, man," I said.
"Thank you, sir," he said back.
I walked to my car, took off my tie, and unbuttoned my top button. I sat in the driver's seat and watched the attendant walk to the next car in line and get down on his hands and knees again with the pressure gauge back in his hand.
Then I put my Lexus into drive and pulled out of the station, headed home, the yellow tire light now gone, replaced by a black nothing.