Travelling with me

Travelling with me Irma Walter 2010 1

What would you do if you heard a shot ringing out? Sitting on a veranda in a peaceful neighbourhood, small town suburbs, 5.30 pm and you're just about to set off for a trip before nightfall? I listen to the echo of the sharp bang that cuts through the hot afternoon air like a sharp knife sinking through an angel cake and then... nothing. So thoroughly nothing that I'm not even sure that I heard something. Well, this is a civilised European country where carrying guns is heavily regulated. Unless you're in a shooting club, you might not even be familiar with the sound of shots. Maybe I was mistaken. I shake my head and get up. There is so much packing to be done. Actually I can't be bothered. Whatever that sound was, I will be travelling the highway south by the time the news will break – if there is any – so why even waste a thought?
Travelling with me Irma Walter 2010 2

Arrgghh, my legs ache, so I drop back into a lawn chair and review the day. The biggie has been to fix a trailer hitch on the van, so that it could pull Mark's caravan. He has the trailer, I have the van. I figured that a single mum with kids couldn't have a better chance at travelling but teaming up with an exboyfriend and his family. No, no hard feelings, we are friends and he still feels responsible, as men do once they've had their dick inside you. They never quite shake the guardian angel idea. Yeah, Karen knows, but she has him on a leash that doesn't spell four letters, but eight. She has the children. And he is ridiculously devoted to his family, although he doesn't have the nerves to be around them much. He's the type who gets raw in no time and most of the time he invites some kids for an ice-cream to get away from Karen's family management. Not a chance, he'll collapse if I make the slightest pass at him. I don't know how we'll come out, we'll look like a
Travelling with me Irma Walter 2010 3

gypsy harem. Maybe that's Mark's thing. Who knows what's going on in his mind. Probably nothing... So I'm gonna drive south to pick them and their trailer up. And I've just had the hitch fixed. It was a big deal, because I couldn't afford a garage, so I involved another friend of mine to fix it. Parker instructed me exactly how to go about it. He loves my mechanic's mind. He says I'm the only woman in the world that can tell a spanner from a ratchet. He explained me the whole connection from the hitch to the lights and to do so he made me lie down with him under the van. In front of all the other guys, making them wait. Them and their beefed-up slinky cars. I'm lying in Parker's arms, him pointing the flash light, whispering into my ears. My head is resting on his arm; I feel his breath on my neck, feel him against my back, dirty with motor oil and grime. Sorry, I won't tell you what was going on in my mind, let's just say, I did have a bit of a hard time to focus on the “cable connection”. So Parker instructs
Travelling with me Irma Walter 2010 4

me to go to this Bosch guy and get the exact description how the cables from the hitch have to be laid so that all the lights on the trailer work. He isn't showing any pity, he makes me go by myself, no molly-coddling. It's a test. He just loves the fact that all the other guys stand there, mouths dropped open, when he talks car with me, teasing the guys with the idea that he might be cheating his buxom blonde girlfriend with a lesbian-looking brunette 12 years his senior. I really don't want to know what remarks they're gonna drop. Oh no, not ever in front of the blonde. They know better. Parker is a valuable man whose friendship is not to be carelessly lost. *********

Travelling with me

Irma Walter 2010


So I show up at the Bosch shop down the road and talk to the cute guy behind the counter. I don't know maybe I'm too old to call a man my age cute. He looks like Ed Harris in “Milk Money”. A bit helpless. And damn it, eyes so blue, they just pierce right into your soul. It's like the guy is always pouring over his laptop and when he glances up, it's like a live wire touching you. I've been in this shop several times; this Ed-guy even changed the wind shield wipers for me once, when he saw me fumbling. He couldn't stand the sight. Took them right out of my hand and grumbled: Here, let me do it. That's kinda nice, right on the parking, no pulling me into the garage or billing me. Y'know, I live in a country where they post women's lib posters all over the place, making the guys feel bad. The art of chivalry is all but lost. So that bit was remarkable indeed and I've been in and out of the shop for bits of light bulbs
Travelling with me Irma Walter 2010 6

or fuses. But never more than a glance. And business. So, Ed, today I need some good advice. Or look, I'll bring the van on Monday, after the cables are fixed, just for you to check if they're done right. No, Ed is adamant that whatever he's got to say, he wants to say today, he's busy next week. It's Friday noon, people are tired for goodness' sake. Ed is the second person that day to trust me that I'll be able to understand the electrical part of a trailer hitch. Not many men bother explaining. I must be asking the right kind of questions. He asks me who fixed the hitch for me. I hem and haw like a little school girl, partly because he's a garage owner and I have the job done by a friend, and secondly because I'm just wasted by his blue eyes. It's like I can't think straight. Actually , at that moment I can't remember Parker's name. Ed looks at me disgusted, because I can be straightforward about wiring, but not about my relationship state. Then he sort of shakes it off and closes the conversation. He
Travelling with me Irma Walter 2010 7

mumbles a good-bye and rattles his keys, ready to close shop. My head is buzzing and I get back to Parker with the notes I've taken and he manages to make sense of it and we even make it in time to get to the technical inspection to get the hitch entered into the papers. Friday afternoon, oh man, that took some pleading. Of course, Parker sends me in on my own to work the inspection guys. He can't be known to be doing private repair work. His yard is an eye-sore to the authorities already. Honestly, when Parker walks through his yard, you get the impression of a 6-ft ballerina doing a swan lake thingie. Pieces everywhere, neatly organised, crammed into every square inch of property. Every window sill, nook and cranny lined with containers and parts. Just enough foot room to put down his
Travelling with me Irma Walter 2010 8

size 13 steel-toes, one in front of the other. And he walks through his yard like a blind man at midnight, when everyone else would break their necks. *********

Travelling with me

Irma Walter 2010


My crampy legs remind me of my good intentions to make some headway into the night. Ok, get the kids to bring down their luggage, run them through the travelling check-list, check the house, load up and hit the road. Well, not quite that smooth, but in principle, yes. Off we go for an adventurous holiday, a tale that will have to wait for now. Let's say about four weeks later we're back, with sand in the car's trunk, skin peeling off our burned backs, Mark and Karen still friends (nothing happened at the ice-cream parlour). I'm sure you know how at the end of a trip, the luggage seems to explode into the driveway. I don't know how many days it takes to clean up the mess and the trails of sand. In the end I take the van over to Parker, because
Travelling with me Irma Walter 2010 10

a cable has come loose. Parker looks down at me with a straight look and a smile on his face. I smile back. He says: You've heard, haven't you? I say What? I've been away. He says: Ed shot himself. In the garage, after closing hours. They found him the next morning. The smile won't drop off his face and I still got mine. Frozen. We're both frozen. Not that either of us knew Ed very well. Actually Parker once sold a car to his bitchy wife. With a hoarse voice he relates how the woman was extremely fussy and that between her sensitivity and bad luck in the garage, Ed must have thrown the towel. It was pre-meditated. Then it is my turn to tell Parker, the events of that particular Friday, that Ed just wouldn't make an appointment for the following week, insisting that it wouldn't be possible. Ed's impatient explanations, a last glimpse of interest in a woman that could draw electrical plans and then the light went out in his blue eyes when I shuffled my feet at his questions. And
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after I got back home, I heard the shot. Parker says: The shop was cleaned up, his paperwork was done, he had the whole day planned through. And you got in his way with your questions. Despite his size, Parker is a gentle soul and he is quite shaken with my account. Silence, nothing more to be said. My head races with thoughts whether I could have done anything to prevent this. Y'know, stupid stuff like, what if I had just grabbed him and fucked him, could I have saved his life? Could have I? Would have I? To what lengths do you want to go to save life? I go to my van and start driving home and as I turn into the main street, I see Ed in the corner of my eyes. As soon as I turn my head, he's gone. I talk to him: What are you doing here? He says, Not to bother, I won't trouble you. Just let me ride along. I freak out a bit, What am I doing with a dead man watching me? Are you nuts, I tell him, I won't share my life with a dead man. He says Just let me stay in
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the car. You were the last person I talked to. I got to catch up on some normalcy before I can go. Let me be your co-pilot. So he was. For a year Ed would be there in the car, whenever I drove anywhere. We talked. Not deep, just normal everyday stuff.

Travelling with me

Irma Walter 2010


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