ONE LAST THING

Nicky Smith col­umn

Financial Mail - Investors Monthly - - Contents - NICKY S SMITH

There is an air of fragility and de­feat about cars which are aban­doned in park­ing lots. They are de­signed and built for agency. They do things: road trips, eaves­drop on con­ver­sa­tions, and pause time for stolen lovers.

Weighed down by lay­ers of ne­glect and dust, their tyres soften and de­flate. The longer they stand, the oilier their coat of shame, and darker. The rims of the wheels seem to suck down into the con­crete of the floor.

You see them in park­ing lots at shop­ping malls and, strangely, at air­ports.

There is one in our build­ing. It is a blue car that is on park­ing level one in the base­ment garage.

It is a royal blue Nis­san Sen­tra, I think. Metal­lic.

The dust has set­tled thicker and thicker on it since I first no­ticed it last year; it has been lurk­ing in the base­ment for months.

What is the car do­ing there? Why hasn’t it been moved af­ter so long? Why haven’t the ob­ses­sive reg­is­ter-tak­ing se­cu­rity guards with the clip boards and torches done any­thing about it?

Why has no one writ­ten any­thing rude or hu­mor­ous on the dusty back win­dow?

Who owns the car? Did some­thing hap­pen to them? Does it be­long to some­one who died and no one has re­mem­bered to col­lect it?

My feel­ings about its pres­ence have vac­il­lated th­ese past few weeks. From feel­ing a lit­tle sad for it, its pres­ence started to feel op­pres­sive.

Its nose points away from the peo­ple who pass it, as if to hide its face by star­ing mutely at the wall.

I have even imag­ined there is some­thing of the churl in its pos­ture. In my mind its roof may even be a lit­tle hunched, as if it to hide some­thing.

Which, I know, is ridicu­lous be­cause it is only a car.

But what is it do­ing there? Is it a test? Am I sup­posed to ask about the car? And will this dis­play of cu­rios­ity and ob­ser­va­tion lead to some sort of re­ward (cue for re­ward now, guys, okay)?

Lately I have been think­ing that I am com­pletely wrong about it. That the for­lorn air it wears so ca­su­ally seems a lit­tle too ca­sual. It is try­ing too hard to blend in and not to be no­ticed, rather like a cold war spy 100 years in the fu­ture with a yel­low rose in their lapel strug­gling to re­main un­ob­served.

Be­cause de­spite all its ef­forts to be in­con­spic­u­ous it sticks out. Be­cause, se­ri­ously, se­cu­rity comb through the base­ment as though we are hav­ing Barack Obama over. They should have no­ticed the sucker.

Un­less... un­less I have truly stum­bled onto some­thing spe­cial.

A small, ex­cited part of me has started to be­lieve it is one of the por­tals to the Oth­er­world.

The place where it is al­ways a sunny Satur­day morn­ing, pets are for­ever and all things not only feel pos­si­ble but are on the point of be­ing achieved.

I have never worked with peo­ple were able to re­sist drawing on the back wind­screen some ado­les­cent mes­sage such as “wash me please” or worse.

Per­haps we have col­lec­tively and un­con­sciously recog­nised that this is not one of those cars. It’s air is not pa­thetic, but se­cre­tive.

It con­ceals a se­cret so large and so un­be­liev­able that it had to be hid­den un­der a build­ing full of jour­nal­ists. It is as if the keep­ers of the Oth­er­world couldn’t re­sist the irony.

The “se­cu­rity guards” are guides from the other side, sent to pro­tect those who are still im­pure of thought, and dead, un­ready to sur­vive the por­tal. The jour­ney to the other side scorches out the stains of bor­ing and evil, some­times leav­ing only a blood­less, limp flesh cas­ing on this side.

Yes. That blue car has a se­cret, all right. Any­way, I have to go now. If I don’t make it back you know where I am. (My limp cas­ing will be on park­ing level one.)

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