Changing the Timid Tire
“Estella looked out the window of her Miami apartment at the folding blue clouds blocking the evening’s sunset. She called her boyfriend Thelonious about an event later in the evening: “What time are leaving tonight? The weather is supposed to be worse later.”
“I’m not sure, probably around nine or nine-thirty,” Thelonious responded.
“Why so late?” Estella asked.
‘Why so late’ was a hopeful extension to tell Estella that he was not going to this event. He paused and paced in his Miami Beach apartment before she asked if he was still on the line.
“Yeah, I’m here. I’m just a distracted,” Thelonious responded.
“I know you’re nervous about the open mic night, but don’t be. I’ll be there supporting you like always,” Estella said as she heard the taps of rain on the sliding glass door.
“Certainly, I know that. Well, I need to get a few things ready then I’ll be by to pick you up, OK?” Thelonious said.
“Leave now before the storm hits. We can chill here then take a cab to the pub. Call me when you’re in the parking lot, then I’ll unlock the door.
Thelonious said good-bye, looked around the room for excuses to delay his drive, and then grabbed his keys. As he locked the door, the storm opened up and unleashed its tropical tempest. Winds in all directions pushed him back to his screen door that was not secure. “Is this a message that I should stay home,” he thought, but it wasn’t and he knew it.
Thelonious’s timeline that trapped his fear of public speaking, specifically reciting poetry that most people considered worthy which included his supporting girlfriend who always shot from the hip about her honesty, began when he was a boy in elementary school.
His fifth-grade music teacher assigned each student to perform a song in front of the class. Thelonious was nervous like most kids, but his shaky voice equaled his shaky hands and some kids noticed and laughed before the music teach told them to stop. In junior high, there would be not protection from his English teacher who made him complete a presentation with utter disregard to a few students in the back who disrespected him by coughing out words like ‘Loser’ and ‘Lame.’ By the time he reached his senior year in high school, his poetry had developed and he was encouraged by Estella, who was a friend, to join the writer’s group after school. Even with like-minded peers, he could not overcome the pressure and never stood to read his poems. After he finished college he reunited with Estella at a restaurant on the beach where she was working part-time as a waitress on the weekends. Soon they became a couple and she began to read his poetry. The encouragement to recite only recoiled his past and she knew it.
Thelonious entered his car, partially soaked, but determined to drive through the storm to Estella’s apartment. He was half-way there as doubt and downpour alike saturated his spirit. Before the exit to Estella’s, he noticed orange blinking lights from a car that was on the side of road. He pulled off to the shoulder, got out in the rain, and met a woman next to a spare tire who was searching with the flashlight from her cell phone in her trunk.
“Excuse me,” Thelonious said as he stood in front his car with the reflections of headlights and blinking emergency lights from his car, “may I help?”
“I can’t find… First of all, thank you for stopping,” she said.
“You’re welcome, what are you looking for?” Thelonious asked.
“I can’t find the jack and I never looked after I purchased the car if I had one. Now I have a flat and I’m screwed,” she said with frustration.
“I can help. Let me get my jack and I’ll change the tire,” Thelonious said.
“Thank you so much,” she said as he went toward his trunk and she partially closed hers then opened the back door of her car.
The storm began to lighten and the lay of the lowly clouds made for an eerie break from the glow of traffic in the foreground and downtown Miami in the background. He went to the side of the car, placed the jack to lift it, and began to change the tire when the woman stood behind him with an umbrella over her and her young son.
“This is my son Brian. Say hello to…. I’m sorry I didn’t get your name, I apologize. My name is Monique and yours?”
“My name is Thelonious, nice to meet you both.”
“We are on our way to Brian’s school for his chorus assembly tonight,” Monique said.
“We don’t have to go. In fact, this is probably a sign that we should not go,” Brian said.
“A sign? What makes you think this is a sign? Why am I even asking you? We are going and that’s that,” Monique said.
“Sir, don’t you believe signs?” Brian asked.
“Brain, let him be. He is helping us and you’re distracting him,” Monique said.
“No, I’m fine. Just a two more bolts and I’ll be ready for the spare,” Thelonious said.
“Brian doesn’t like to be in front of people,” Monique said.
“Why you gonna tell him that?” Brian asked.
It had occurred to Thelonious as he placed the spare on the lug studs that he shared the fear of the boy, that Brian was a reflection of him.
Thelonious secured the lug nuts then slowly let the car down with the jack. Monique began to thank him while he cleaned his hands with a wet towel that was in a puddle. Then she stopped and walked to the trunk and handed him a dry towel. He placed the old tire in the trunk and looked at Brian who was fidgeting with his black tie.
“Brian, I have a fear of being in front of people as well,” Thelonious said.
“You see momma, it’s a sign,” Brian told her as he shrugged her pant leg.
“Brian, that’s enough of the signs already. Thank you so much, I have some cash—”
“No thank you Monique, I’m glad I could help. Brian, it was a pleasure to meet you. I want you to know that it is OK to be scared, but don’t let that stop you. Just get up on that stage and sing,” Thelonious said as he folded the towel and placed it back in her trunk before closing it.
“You are kind with your words of wisdom, I’m sure he appreciates it,” Monique said then looked down at Brian.
She walked Brian to the back door, closed it then walked back to Thelonious who was sitting in his car: “That means a lot to me for you to offer Brian encouragement. I appreciate your honesty as well.”
“I think his honesty helped me. I should be thanking you. I guess I was meant to stop and help,” Thelonious said.
“Well, I didn’t want to agree with him that it was a sign for us to meet you because he was placing his honest fear first. However, he is right and I don’t think it was by chance that you of all people stopped to assist us. Thanks again,” Monique said.
Thelonious, who had left his cell phone in the car, looked down to see five missed calls from Estella. He called and she picked up the phone with urgency to say, “Where are you?”
“I’m fine. I stopped to help a family with a flat tire. I’ll be there soon,” Thelonious said.
When he arrived, he told Estella about the changing of the tire, the changing of his perspective, and the timing of the experience. She said it must have been a sign. He smiled, clapped his hands, and gave her a big hug.
“Are you ready to perform tonight?” she asked as he embraced her.
Thelonious leaned back with his hands on her shoulders, “Yes, I am.”