He put too much cologne on. He knew that the minute he opened the door to the fresh air outside. He could smell himself, all limey and musky. It was horrible. But he was already late, so he got in the car, condemned to suffer his inhuman scent for the entire ten minute drive, even with the windows open.
Because he had the windows open, inevitably his hair was blown around. He didn’t realize this until he was stopped at a red light, and glanced in the rear-view mirror, and saw a rat’s tail, or something. It wasn’t a rat’s tail, it was a long strand of his gelled hair sticking straight out to the side. When he dared look at the entire coif, he saw that the strands were, without prejudice, poking out from all sides. He looked like a Matt Groening cartoon character.
The car behind him honked. The light had changed. He ran his hands through his hair and hit the accelerator. Unfortunately there was a woman with a pram just reaching the curb, and he nicked her posterior with the left side of the car. This made her angry. He pulled over, as any decent man would, to make sure she and her baby were ok.
The baby was a twelve-pack of canned beer, of a brand he had never noticed before, and he didn’t drink beer anyway. She was probably quite attractive normally, but with her face scrunched in fury she looked like she was imploding into herself, like a black hole, sucking in her eyes, nose, and mouth.
He appreciated that a large amount of beer was difficult to carry any distance, and a pram was as good a wheeled vehicle as any to transport it. But when she lifted her skirt to show him a massive bruise caused by his careless driving, and the bruise wasn’t there, he raised his hands, palms out, in a display of WTF, and turned to get back into his car, which was still running.
Enraged that he was so unresponsive, the woman ran after him, and when she included in her shouting that he smelled like a rat’s ass, he stopped in confusion. When he stopped, she took the opportunity to punch him hard, in the nose. Perhaps she could have carried that twelve-pack of beer, after all, because his nose started to bleed, spilling down his freshly-laundered white shirt.
Three teenage boys with skateboards paused on the sidewalk to watch what he would do.
He was now very late, so he pushed the woman away, because of course he would not engage in a fight, and with blood dripping from his nose, he put the car in “drive” –and drove. She threw something at the car as it pulled away, which looked like a cold cigarette butt; all she’d had at hand, fortunately.
Once he’d gotten himself and the car out of harm’s way, he found his handkerchief and pressed it to his nose. He drove at below the speed limit, as he wanted no more incidents or collisions with women or prams.
But a cop pulled him over anyway.
“You know there is a seat belt law?” the officer said through the open driver’s side window, eyes scanning the interior of the car.
He nodded. He didn’t mention that the threat of violence caused him to forget to fasten it.
“That all your own blood?” asked the officer.
He nodded again. “Nosebleed,” he told the officer, and his voice sounded both high-pitched and gurgly, because of the blood in his throat.
The cop told him to put his head back, with his nose in the air. She told him to breath normally, to calm down.
“I’m torn,” said the officer after he told her his story, “between taking you to the station and checking this whole thing out, or escorting you to the courthouse myself, with sirens.”
“Sirens, please,” he said. And they started off. His nostrils were blocked with caked blood so he breathed through his mouth. They were going above the speed limit, so he started thinking he might not be too late, when his car slowed, and finally came to a stop in the middle of the road.
How could he not notice how low he was on gas? He had meant to fill the tank yesterday, but because of the parrot, he’d forgotten all about it.
He pushed the car to the curb while she steered it. He’d meant to wash the car, too, but hadn’t, and his suit pants were covered in brown, greasy dirt.
He moved towards the police car, and tried the passenger door, but it was locked. He glanced at her with urgency. Surely she would take him the last mile to his destination?
“Can’t do it,” she said. “Do you know you smell a bit… rodential?”
“Don’t want that smell permeating my vehicle.”
So, as an outstanding favour to him, and as a breach of everything she knew to be legal, she let him ride on the hood of the car as they travelled that last mile.
And that’s how he appeared to his bride-to-be, who was standing on the courthouse steps, being soothed by a couple who must have been her parents, whom he’d never met. She wore a pale pink dress and a corsage of gardenias. When she looked anxiously up the street, and then down the street again, she spotted him.
She didn’t realize it was him, at first. She wasn’t expecting to see him arrive on the hood of a slowly moving police car, covered in grime, his hair sticking impossibly out in all directions, and his face and shirt covered in blood. She only recognized him when he waved, tentatively.
The first thing she did was turn and speak to her parents. They seemed a nice couple, older than he expected, and all dressed up. They hurried back into the courthouse. She glanced at him in horror, and hurried after them.
He was confused again. He hopped off the hood of the police car, which started his nose bleeding again. The cop got out of the car and offered him a clean handkerchief.
“Put your head back, remember?” she said.
He eyed her with interest. He’d come here this day to be married. It was going to happen, one way or another.