A broken side mirror

I was in love, broke, and alone. My boyfriend of 5 years, housemate and doggy adoption partner, had just split with me.

It was a particularly shaky morning as I drove the Los Angeles streets weaving in and out of traffic, and it demanded more of me than I had to give. My driver side mirror dangled by a thread, along with other various components of my car that were broken; it mirrored my life at that moment.

My heart was running on empty, and my car was too. It needed an oil change, and it did not care how I felt.

I pulled up to the Quality Lube in Burbank. I took a deep breath and silently told myself not to cry as the gentleman approached my car and asked what I needed.

I had used this business since I moved to Los Angeles a few years prior, and he was always the same person who helped me. I had no family in Los Angeles, and on that day his familiar face was a type of consistent support that was oddly comforting.

I told him I needed an oil change through the window. I got out of the car and handed him my keys, immediately looking to the ground. I didn’t want to cry in front of him.

I hurried into the waiting room and heard the television, its low humming volume swallowed up the sterile empty space. I sat on one of the black plastic chairs in the corner, just out of view of the employees working on my car. I let myself cry.

He came back in to the waiting room to give me an update. I pulled it together. He smiled and then headed back into the garage.

Moments later I noticed all the employees, three other smaller gentlemen, swarm the driver side of my car with intent, working together on something. I leaned forward out of my chair to get a better view, still wanting to keep my distance. They stood there for almost 10 minutes. One of the workers moved to clean up and revealed at the center of the group what they had been doing. My side mirror, fixed. Held together by four screws, but it was unbroken.

He came back in. I was standing at the desk now, quiet. “You’re ready to go,” he said. He presented me the bill for the oil change. “And we fixed your mirror. I hope you have a better day.”

I was speechless but I finally was able to belt out a “Thank you.” I’m not sure there are words to explain emotions in moments like those other than gratitude.

They pulled the car up to the curb and I got in. I could see them in my side mirror standing and watching me pull away. They were all smiling. I began to cry again, but tears of gratitude and happiness, and this time I did not care if they could see. Something was unbroken, because of the kindness of gentlemen I did not know. A random act of kindness from strangers gave me exactly what I needed: support and stability.

Marie Matthews