#FlashMarch: A Three Hour Tour

Cody Melcher
Mar 10, 2018 · 5 min read

For information on #FlashMarch and what’s going on here, check out Day 1.

Prompt from Poets & Writers Creative Nonfiction Prompts:

In Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a mysterious narrator recounts committing the murder of an old man, all the while insisting on his own sanity. In order to hide the body, the narrator dismembers and buries the corpse beneath the floorboards, but continues to hear the dead man’s beating heart. The terror and madness that the increasingly loud beating wreaks on the narrator’s psyche throughout the rest of the story is seen as a manifestation of guilt. Think about a situation in the past when you have felt guilty about something you’ve said, done, or witnessed. How did the guilt manifest? Was there a secret involved? Was there an eventual confession or resolution? Write an essay about this memory, focusing on the immediate emotions and any bodily response or flights of imagination that may have resulted.

Orange County Register

I moved to Los Angeles (technically Glendale, but shhhh, I wanna sound fancy) in November. Around early December I went to the local DMV (oh here we go again, another typical DMV story) and it was actually pretty quick, but I didn’t realize I was missing a few things I would need to register my car and get a new license. I received a temporary car registration (to last until the end of January, plenty of time) and a gentle smile.

Three months passed and I had not registered the car and had lived like some sort of fugitive on the lam driving my car past January, parking it in garages so the coppers wouldn’t see, driving down side streets, hiding. I had become what I’d always feared—Shia LaBeouf. Today I decided that enough was enough, so I gathered all of the paperwork from the last trip to the DMV along with the new paperwork I didn’t have last time but had since lazily collected as if I were gathering dandelions on the wind (depression is fun, y’all).

I arrived at the DMV as most people do—hungover and tired. And as I parked my car I noticed something I hadn’t on my first lap around the building—a line stretching, Apple-store-release-like around the entirety of the building. Now, a rational person might think to themselves, “you know, this seems absurd and obviously the line isn’t always like this since it literally wasn’t the last time I was here, so I’ll just come back on a different day since it’s only a 9 minute drive from my apartment,” but by the time I’d finished saying that to myself, I was already in line.

“What?” Asked the guy in front of my in line as I’d finished saying the sentence. “Oh, nothing, sorry,” I said, avoiding eye contact to show deference. There would be no displays of primal aggression from me at the DMV. Not today. Not ever.

After two and a half hours (yes, you read that right and I typed it right) I finally had a number and a sense of purpose, though I’d lost all sense of self. I walked over and sat next to a woman watching a bootleg video of Michael Crawford’s run as the Phantom of the Opera with no headphones. Just as we entered Act 2 my number was called. B-148. Was I ever so simple, young, and naïve? I approached the Slovenian woman at the counter and handed her my paperwork.

“You don’t have a proof of residence,” she said as she handed me back the papers, “I can’t process either of these.”

“Oh, but I had it last time,” I responded as I shuffled frantically through the sheets.

“OK,” she responded, unimpressed with my tales of days gone by. “But we need it today, too.”

Fair response, but still, I had literally just grabbed the packet of paperwork I had the last time I was at the DMV (the fun thing about an unorganized mess of a human being is that sometimes things accidentally stay organized because you just put them down in a clump and never touch that clump again)—except, somehow, that one sheet of paper had escaped.

For the first time in my life I had had confidence in myself and didn’t feel the need to double-check the stack of papers from the last DMV trip and my massive amounts of hubris had come back to crash down upon me. HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO VAIN?! My mind turned to the tale of Niobe, the last three hours of my life like his seven daughters and seven sons, slain by Apollo and Artemis in rash judgment of my failure.

“Sir,” the DMV-person (DMVidual? We’ll fix it in post) interrupted, “If you can’t find the proof of residence, you’ll need to leave and come back.”

“What if I can show it to you on my phone?” I pleaded, “Surely, that would be enough? Or the registration permit from last time I was here? I couldn’t have gotten that far without the original proof?”

“We could only take this permit if it was a final one and not a temporary. And we don’t take digital.”

My brain was filled with the mucus of consternation. They didn’t take digital? What are they, a state-level government organization whose website still looks like it was made on Angelfire? Oh, wait. They are.

“I’m sorry we couldn’t make this work.” I said.

“OK,” responded the DMVoy (it’s like a DMV envoy? I’m trying here), because she couldn’t have known that I was talking to myself.

I walked out of the DMV with my head hung low. Humiliation filled my lungs in a way air usually doesn’t because I was born two months premature. I had just done the equivalent of two back-to-back ‘The Emoji Movie’s—three hours of a painful waste of time. I slid into the seat of my car, started the engine, and immediately the radio came on and I heard the words straight from Tim McGraw himself,

“Someday I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying.”

And I wept.

[I also realize I may have cheated the prompt for today a little, and for that, I feel extremely guilty]

Cody Melcher

whimsy wonk // Host of Tomefoolery & So, I’ve Done Some Googling.

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