Running on Empty

vw bug

Long ago, when Rudy and I first started our courtship, I did all the driving. For no other reason than Rudy did not have a car and I did. And honestly, I really didn’t mind. For me, any chance I could get to drive my very first bought it myself car, a yellow VW Bug, I took the opportunity to make use of the term Pedal-to-the-Metal.

In the midst of driving and dating, Rudy had asked me if I had twenty bucks he could borrow, which was one of the hardest things for him to request. He claimed he needed it to cover a few days before he was handed his weekly paycheck. And then he’d pay me back. I’m not sure he realized it, probably not, but my feelings for him deepened in that moment. I felt trusted. Someone he could rely on. So I simply smiled, hugged him, dug into my wallet, and pulled out a folded twenty dollar bill. Rudy quietly responded with something about how hard it was to even ask me, that he really appreciated my help, and all other manners of speech relating to him, a guy, asking me, a girl, his date, for money, something he never thought he’d ever need to do, and on and on. In the end, he said his thanks, and, well, he was humbled by my kindness. Then he hugged me.

Ironically, less than a week after Rudy had timidly asked me if he could borrow money, I timidly pretended that my Bug was capable of running on gas fumes.

You see, I was driving south on the 57 Freeway, in Orange County, CA, when I noticed that the Volkswagen’s gas gauge was lower than low. We were heading towards Rudy’s place, for a nightcap, you might say, when I nonchalantly mentioned I needed gas, or some such comment. “You want to stop, put gas in the car?” Rudy questioned. Well, now, even though I knew I should have right then and there, filled that tank up, I simply, quietly said, “No, it’s alright. I have enough to get me back home.” He questioned if I was sure. I said yes. And that was it. No more discussion.

Later, after I left, to return home, at about one ‘o clock in the morning, I was traveling north on the 57 when the VW gave out on me. That cute little car just could not move without fuel. I let the car cruise until it came to a complete stop, its nose barely reaching an off-ramp entrance. Cell phones were only used by the wealthy back then, and that wasn’t me, so I was stuck in the darkness of the evening. By myself. Until another car pulled up, a guy got out, and offered help, speaking into my barely cracked-open window. I politely said no thanks, and he left. Which left me to fend for myself. Which meant I had no other option – AAA wasn’t on my radar during those days – except to walk to the nearest gas station, and borrow a filled gas can. I then had to walk back the half mile to the Bug, dump the fuel in, then driveĀ the fumed-up car back to the not very helpful attendant at the service station, where I preceded to fill the Volkswagen full. An hour or so later, I returned to the freeway, driving myself home.

Why I didn’t take Rudy’s suggestion that we get gas for the VW earlier in the evening? I don’t know. All I can say is that I felt just like he did when asking me for money. Timid. Awkward. Yet, unlike him, I couldn’t rise to the occasion and accept his help.

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