When we find things we want, but we realize they aren’t good for us, and we can’t give them back…

I was on empty and it was the kind of emptiness that grows. When I was younger, I’d experienced it and I had found ways to fill it— distractions and goals that didn’t take me anywhere, but now the emptiness was banished. It was growing, and there were no stops, only go, no authority, not even my own.

The gas station was one of those places that used to be used, but now was on an inconvenient corner, with a convenience store that was no longer convenient. It was so dilapidated and run down, one wondered if they were still in business. The pump technology and dials hadn’t changed in 40 years, and only lost and nostalgic drivers stopped there. The man behind the counter wore a thick beard and didn’t say anything. He stared straight ahead, like he was in a trance and accepted payment from the rare customer.

It was one of those days where I sensed my power rising, and the same shore held me at bay. The day begins and ends and it is difficult to know if there is a progression, just like the tides. People want to get to the end of it. Some gain and lose. Some maintain, and spend their lives maintaining. There is no progression.

I put the pump in my gas tank and watched the numbers roll. Everything turned in a circle, generations of people who forgot generations of people. My tank was full, but my tires were flat, so I pumped those as well. There were take-out food containers in my cab, so I threw those into the dumpster. My ride was clean and ready to go when I thought I heard something. It sounded like farting and eating at the same time.

“Whatcha gonna do with those empty containers?” It asked.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said.

I looked over the edge of the dumpster, expecting to find a bum—in some ways, I wasn’t disappointed. It was disgusting, dirty, slimy, even its face looked disreputable.

“Don’t look at me like that,” it said.

“Like what?”

“Like this.” And it held up a broken mirror so that I could see the frown on my face.

“You don’t like me, do you?” It said.

“Uhhh…”

“Never mind, but I do know you’ve been running on empty for some time, and I’m the gas station mechanic.”

“What’s that?”

“I fill windshield wiper fluid, tires, I used to pump gas, but economics made me obsolete, now I’ve got to scrounge for dinner.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Yesterday, I found a half-eaten egg McMuffin. Now, how can I service you?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way,” I said. “You sound like a hooker.”

“What if I am?” It winked.

I almost laughed. “If you can fill my emptiness, I’ll buy you dinner.”

“You’re on. Now, what you want is a little power that you can use in a big way.”

“I don’t know that I want that,” I said. “I think I just want to be left alone.”

“But you see, that’s why you’re empty. You think you want peace, but you already have that, you’re bored. What you need to do is find an enemy and go to war.”

“What?” I asked. I didn’t like how it said that.

“Enemies, everybody has enemies, just identify one or two, and I’ll do something about it.”

“Well, there is a guy I work with named Bob, but Bob is a good man, we just don’t get along, different personalities, you know.”

“Oh, you don’t know what you’re saying. You’ve got so much repressed rage under that peaceful exterior, it’s like a tornado waiting to touch down. I’ll do something about it, silent like, and you’ll have the satisfaction it was done. Do you know the word ‘mechanic’ used outside its normal meaning?”

“Yeah.”

“Well… there you go. You don’t even have to say the word. I know what you’re thinking.”

“What’s your name, anyway?” I asked.

“My friends call me Ego.”

“Well, don’t do me any favors.”

“It’s too late…”

Suddenly, I realized my tank was full.

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