portion of the artwork for Anthony Bromberg's story

I Am Your Car
Anthony Bromberg

“Mario, what’s going on? Crazy movie. Sixty miles per hour. Wow.”

“Cool, thanks. Hey,” Mario replied. He couldn’t remember the name of the tall guy who always wore the strange gray hat. He wanted to say it was Jim or Joe or something like that. The next day when they were cleaning up, he would remember this conversation, ask Virginia, and find out it was Saul.

“So, is this your first film?”

“No, not really—”

“No, that’s cool. I liked it.”

“Great, yeah, tell me what you think. Feedback’s great.”

“Really? Cool. Yeah, I liked it. I didn’t like the acting very much, though.”

“It’s a documentary.”

“Right, I know—um, acting’s the wrong word, but the people who talked. Like the woman who did the questions and the narration, maybe you could’ve gotten say Morgan Freeman or Tom Hanks.” He wouldn’t mention this part to Virginia.

“I didn’t pay the people who helped me out. I was lucky—”

“Well, maybe that’s why.”


“You could’ve just paid the people who did it better,” the tall guy said, squinting down at Mario though the lights on the wall were behind him. “I’m joking, seriously. I liked it. Good job,” Saul said, patting Mario’s shoulder as he moved around him.

“Hello, Mario.”

“Oh. Hi, Clare,” Mario said. She had to arrest him just as he was on his way to the drink table.

“Interesting film.”

“I’m glad you liked it. Cool.” Mario had known Clare as part of the periphery of the scene he moved in for years now. She was a scholar of some sort, though he didn’t know if she worked for the university or not. He had always felt ill at ease with her and fairly certain she didn’t like him. It was nice that she had come to the premiere though.

“I found the Henry Ford imagery particularly … interesting,” she said, finally breaking their pause.

“Yeah, that footage took a long time to compile and edit. I’m proud we got it done in time. Couldn’t have done it without Victor. You know Victor, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Clare nodded at someone passing behind him. “I find it interesting that you chose Henry Ford. The masculinity of the film was … overwhelming. It was interesting. Obviously the car as the ultimate phallus driving down as many roads as possible. The sheer rush of the picture. And not a single female around. And especially interesting was the focus on Henry Ford. The man behind the curtain. The Oz of the motoring world. The director. I thought it a very interesting choice to represent yourself through that image of John Ford. Tyrant, patriarch, madman, genius, self-proclaimed lord.”

Mario, not generally an impatient man, wanted to walk away, but he wasn’t sure who else was listening.

“Clare, thanks for your insight. It’s not really how I see the movie, but a different perspective is always good,” Mario replied. “It goes by pretty quickly so you might have missed some things, but both the narrator and the factory worker were women. I think the film makes a case that cars if anything are uterine bubbles and not phallic at all. And while, yes, in a way I might relate to John Ford—who is a film director, anybody might make the mistake—I’d like to think I can include a historical figure without being accused of some twisted autobiography. Henry Ford is someone I would like to distance myself from personally, but someone whose life I believe still has embedded lessons we might learn from.” He was frustrated. He knew he had said “bubbles” and regretted that immensely.

“Thanks, Mario. It’s all very interesting, I assure you.” And with that Clare walked off in the direction of the bathrooms, her long black dress skimming the ground behind her.

“Hey, Mario, over here a minute! Hey! Great show.”

“Thanks. How’s it going?”

“So what’s the deal with all those sixes, man?”

“What do you mean?”

“No, don’t play it off like that. I know the artist doesn’t speak, etc., etc., but this is a documentary. This is social commentary. The people need to know what you mean, right?”

“Sure, but what do you mean?”

“It’s a six-minute movie. You go out of your way to make the comment that the national average car speed on all roads is now sixty miles an hour. Henry Ford’s funeral procession included six Model T’s. Six six six,” Marty said, holding up a new finger with each six. Mario wondered if it was just coincidence that he had raised his middle finger first. He had always found Marty’s jocularity-bordering-on-rudeness act a little confusing.

“OK,” was all Mario decided to venture.

“So are you getting biblical, Mario? I have to assume you’ve got a Catholic background. Mario. So is this movie all one big bit of popery?”

“I don’t really know what to say to that,” Mario replied, nonplussed. Not only wasn’t he Catholic, his ancestors had been staunch English puritans, and he didn’t have a drop of Italian blood. Mario Freeman. His parents just liked the name. “Would it be a good or bad thing if it were?”

“It’d be a kind of a cheap trick, I think,” Marty said, taking a sip of his complimentary champagne. “The sign of the beast. The car is the beast. Isn’t that a little simplistic? I don’t care if you’re religious, man, but that’s kind of trite, don’t you think?”

“Well, then, no, it’s not that. Thanks, Marty.”

He went to shake Marty’s hand and extricate himself from the conversation, but as he did Marty threw an arm around him for a hug. “I always knew it was you,” Marty whispered in Mario’s ear. Mario walked away, frustrated. He had felt something splash his back as Marty hugged him, and now he was sure that wherever he went next he’d be looked at as the guy who somehow spilled crap all over his own back. He hoped it wouldn’t start feeling sticky. The room was a little warm. Maybe he’d find Virginia and ask her if she knew where the thermostat was.

“Who’s this?”

Mario had been milling about for a moment, enjoying being unattached to any particular crowd or conversation. Apparently he had been spotted.

“Oh, Mario. This is Mario. Mario, this is everybody.”

“Who’s Mario?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. This is Mario Freeman. He directed the lovely film we all just saw.”


“No kidding.”

“Hey, I enjoyed it.”


“Can I ask you something, Mario?”

”I bet everyone has a question for Mario.”

“Why didn’t you make the film more real?”


”Interesting, I grant you it was interesting, but I didn’t think it was real enough.”

“Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Reality.”

”Like reality television? Is that still big? There’s no way!”

“No, like reality reality. Right?”

“I’m sorry. I really don’t have any idea what you mean.” It was the first word Mario got in. He would shake each of their hands and then politely get himself another glass of champagne. His was empty again.

“Hey, who’s this guy?” Marco asked, putting Mario in a headlock. Mario hoped no one was looking at his spot. He noticed that Marco’s deodorant or aftershave or something smelled good. He’d try and remember to ask him about it some other time. “Seriously, who let him in?”

“Marco, it’s good to see you. I’m so glad you could make it.” Marco let go.

“Bullshit. You’re still jealous that I made a movie about starfish before you could, and while your little motoring film was nice and all, you know nothing’s sexy like a starfish. They regrow limbs!”

“I know. I helped you edit that movie,” Mario said, adjusting his blazer. It was new. He hoped the fit looked good on him.

“Yeah. You wish you did. Seriously, though. Your vehicular movie is a gem. I loved it.”

“Thanks, Marco. That means a lot.”

“You know what I was thinking would have made it better though?”

“If it were about starfish?”

”No, well, yeah, but no. Even better for your movie I think, since I already made the starfish movie. If you could have gotten The Cars to do the score.”

“Like the seventies band?”

Marco nodded, including everyone in the vicinity in his nod.

“But they haven’t been a band for, I don’t know, twenty years at least.”

“Right, well, that’d be kind of a point. First serious vehicle doc ever, big band reuniting. You’d be on the festival circuit like that, Toronto, Sundance, all of them. And The Cars, hey, they’d be on the festival circuit too, Lollapalooza, um, Bonnaroo, South by Southwest. Are there any other rock festivals?”

“Hey, Marco,” Mario said leaning in. “I’ve gotta circulate. You want to get lunch or something on Saturday?”

“Yeah, yeah. Go, have fun. Seriously good movie. Good job.”

“I didn’t get it.”

“What was there to get? That’s my question.”

“No, I’m sure it was about something. I just didn’t know what.”

“Maybe. I just don’t like these self-important artsy things. I always feel like there really must be something better to spend the money on. There must be something more important out there than this film even if the little critics circles don’t think so. Why do I come to these things, I wonder? I do have to admit the wine at this one’s really good. Way better than usual,” Frankie said, raising a glass.

“I don’t know. I don’t think this was artsy. I know we’ve seen those, but this was a documentary. It’s real, not art. Sometimes I think that’s even harder to make into anything interesting. We live real life, leave that alone in the movies.”

“Why do we come to these things?”

“Because your brother gives a lot of money to the grants commission, and he’s too sick to come himself. And some of our friends are always here. See, there’s Lupe right over there.” Stevie waved.

“And I like wine.”

“And you like wine.”

“Sorry, I’m just feeling grumpy. My grandpa died in a car, you know.”


“My dad’s dad. I never knew him, but there you go.”

Sometimes Mario convinced himself that if he was deaf he would never have bothered to learn lip reading. He told himself it was OK. Not everyone likes everything. You make it for yourself, and if even one other person gets something from it you’ve done a good thing. There are some people out there who don’t like The Clash, Woody Guthrie, and Vonnegut. So there you go.

He really wanted to find Virginia.

“Well, what do you think?”


“Oh. We were just talking about the way it used segmentation to represent the disjointedness of modern society.”


“Yeah. Compartmentalization. Like you’re in your car and this is your space. It’s a specific thing you do. You’re a specific person inside of a car. Someone a little different than outside of the car. It’s this compartmentalized moment between the other compartments you’ve set up in your life, and then there are even these other compartments within the car. But I’m talking too much.”

“No. You’re right. I thought it had a lot to say.”

“I’m not sure I got all of it from the one viewing, but I was intrigued. The movement of the score with some of the quick cut images was jarring. I liked it, I think.”

“I need a little time to process it too.”

“Yeah, it’s voice was definitely compelling.”

“That’s great. Good. Enjoy everything. We appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time to come out and support us,” Mario said, trying to put on his best face. He still felt rankled, but these people seemed nice. He would just rather they were Virginia. He smiled at them and walked away.

“Who was that?”

“I don’t know. Not really sure. Was he the guy from the GPS development team?”

“I don’t think so.”

“No, you’re right. Hmmm.”

“I liked his glasses, though.”

“Me, too.”

“Yeah, they were nice, but they were on a little crooked.”

“Hey, man of the moment! How’s it going?” Virginia’s tone changed as she saw the look on Mario’s face. “Everything cool?”

“I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“I’m sorry. Lady’s room. I started in on the wine tasting while everyone was still in the movie. Here I am now.”

“Yeah, I’m glad. I’ve been wanting to talk to you.”

“Well, my pleasure. It sounds like it went great in there. People are giving me compliments left and right, and I just did the narration.”

Mario frowned unconsciously, and Virginia gave him a smile.

“Hey, can you check and see if I have a stain on the back of my blazer? That monster, Marty, assaulted me with champagne, and I’ve been walking around feeling like an idiot ever since.”

“Nope, nothing there,” Virginia said, patting the place he had indicated. “I saw Marco. He seemed really excited.”

“Yeah. He’s a maniac. Gets a little old sometimes.”

“You can always tell when he likes something, ’cause he starts comparing it to that blasted starfish movie. Starfish!”

“Hey, do you think it’s hot in here? Has anyone complained to you about that?”

“No, but I’m not the only one in the room wearing a blazer. You want me to find the air conditioner?”

“No, no. That’s fine. You want to share a glass of wine with me? There’s been kudos given to your choices by the way.”

“The wine, huh?” she said, looking him in the eyes. “You want a hug?” she asked. He just stood there, and wondered whether he was allowed to have a hug right then, or no. He nodded and stepped toward her. Virginia held him close, and bent his head onto her shoulder.

“ There. Now let’s go get each of us a glass of wine. I don’t know anything about this sharing bullshit. I bet if we make it to the Oscars they don’t have better wine.”

“I really appreciate everything. You know it’s just as much your movie as it is mine.”

“It’s everybody’s movie, Mario. Isn’t that the whole point?”

“Hi, are you Mario?”


“Yeah, that’s what they told me. I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Giuseppe Verdi,” Giuseppe said.

“Nice to meet you,” Mario replied. “That sounds familiar. Should it?”

“Maybe. I’m new in town. I just wanted to introduce myself and to thank you for opening this up to the public. That’s really cool.”

“My pleasure. What brought you here? Work? Family?”

“Oh, work. I don’t have any family here. I’m a programmer. Computers, you know? Company sent me out here.”

“Great, have you met Darla? She’s in your business.”

“Yeah, she’s actually the one who told me about this. I work with her. Is she here, though? I haven’t seen her.”

“I haven’t either.”

“Well, again I just wanted to say thanks,” Giuseppe said, and started to move as though he was going to walk off, but then he changed his mind. “You know, when I first heard about this film, I had this very definite image in my mind of what it was going to be about.”


“Yeah, I thought it was going to be about siblings. Like when I was growing up and I got my first car, I had to drive my little brothers and sisters everywhere. It really was like I was their car, you know? And I thought that’s what it’s going to be about, about how oldest brothers and sisters and interviews with them and that kind of thing, their relationships and their cars. I don’t know why. That was just my instinct, just a thought.”

“Maybe you should make that movie.”

“No, no. I’ll leave the moviemaking to you.”

”Well,” Mario said, “what did you think of this version of the movie? Not what you expected.”

“No, it wasn’t what I expected. I hope it’s OK if I say I don’t know what I thought of it. I hope that doesn’t sound like an insult or anything, because it’s really not. I just really don’t know. You know, I’d like to see it again or a few more times. There was a lot to take in, and I just don’t think I got all of it just seeing it once. Is there going to be a DVD? Because I’d buy that in a heartbeat. I love supporting local artists. I think it’s really an important thing to do.”

“I don’t know about a DVD. We’ll see,” Mario said, kind of laughing. “There’s an e-mail list if you want to get updates about the film.”

“Oh, yeah? That’d be great.”

“Good. It was nice meeting you, Giuseppe.”

“You too, Mario. Have a good rest of your night. You deserve it.”

“What do you mean? How could it possibly be about me?”

“Well, it is, isn’t it?”

“I’m not even in it. I’m not even the person asking the questions, interviewing the other people.”

“Right, but it’s about you, isn’t it?” It was strange how perverse and willful some people could be. Rhonda was one of those people. She might not have looked intimidating, but she was incisive and unready to let you out of the smallest confession. Rhonda and Mario liked each other a lot.

“That doesn’t make any sense. It’s not even about organic objects. Are you saying I’m um like an inanimate object?”

The reception had been going on for a couple of hours. The room really had gotten warm with all the bodies milling about, and Rhonda was tapping Mario’s chest as she spoke, a glass in her other hand.

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all; I’m just saying this movie is about you. That’s what it seems like to me. It is, isn’t it?”

“Jesus,” Mario replied, taking a drink and a small step back, “yeah. It is. Of course it is. The title is I Am Your Car after all.” His head felt light, his feet heavy.

“I thought so. The movement, the fears, the paranoia about the future, but the underlying humor, and if I can use such a ridiculous phrase not-quite-cynical cynical optimism. It all felt like you, Mario. I never really had understood why you were making a documentary about cars, but it’s not about cars. That makes sense. I enjoyed it. Sorry for giving you a hard time.” Rhonda looked up at him with a challenge in her eyes.

“OK, thanks.”

“Maybe you should have called it I Am Your Movie.”

There are three things I’ll point out in the tale of the inspiration for “I Am Your Car.” One, and I hope people can relate to this (I don’t want to be the freakish clod I suspect I might just be), is I often find the question, “So what are you writing about?” an incredibly difficult one to answer. I wanted to get down with that awkward feeling of trying to talk about inspiration, meaning, and art in general and have some fun with it while remaining true to the cringeworthy feelings and utterances it consistently inspires. I hope you got something like that from the story. Two, I wanted to write about a non-written art form, and I chose film for a couple of reasons. First, I love film. Second, I attended college at UCLA and did some film writing while there and attended a few film premieres and found their energy incredibly strange, so I thought that would be interesting to channel. Three, I got inspired to write about documentaries because I have a real hard time not falling asleep during most documentaries, and I wanted to try to connect to them more deeply. I thrive with characters, not facts and commentary, but I thought perhaps if I created a character I could love who did thrive with facts and commentary maybe I’d feel a deeper appreciation for his favorite art form. On a side note, this story is being published at a pretty perfect time for me as I’m developing my first independent film project. Thanks, FRiGG!

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 28 | Spring 2010