To my silly clown car:
In retrospect it’s easy to convince myself I loved you from the first moment I saw you. If I’m honest, I didn’t. You were one of three cars I test drove that day, and your performance was less than exceptional. Everything about you felt flimsy, like driving a Go-Kart down the freeway. The way every sound and rumble of the ground underneath you reverberated through my body. How you needed the windows cracked, even though it was winter in Oregon, and probably drizzling. Choosing you was one of the more difficult decisions I’ve ever made, but you were affordable and I was desperate. I’d been car-less for nearly a year when I found you. After Seabiscuit, the ‘99 Dodge Neon blew a headgasket and bled out on the St. John’s Bridge, I turned to public transit. I tried to reason with myself, the usual Think of all the money you’ll save! No more car insurance, no more overpriced gas… You can spend that time writing, focusing on personal development, reading. No. These were all beautiful lies I told myself. First of all, a bus pass at the time cost $5 a day. Working five days a week, I was paying $100 a month to spend three hours a day coming or going. Second, if I focus on anything other than the ceiling of the bus while riding the bus, my insides try to become my outsides. Nobody needs the embarrassment of being a Public Transportation Puker. Still, I was broke. And again, being honest? Lazy. It took one supremely creepy gentleman nearly following me home from my bus stop for me to find the motivation to start looking for a new car. I found you after about a week of half-hearted research and number crunching. That first night, after jumping through what felt like miles of paperwork, I followed Henrietta the Fit home. Parked you across the street from A’s house. When I woke up for work the next morning, somebody had clipped your driver side mirror. Carrrl. This should have been a sign. Over the course of that first year you were towed and backed over by an F-350. You charged headlong into the bumper of a very nice family waiting in line for dipped cones at Dairy Queen. Eventually your simplicity won me over. There was no vast, space-era console. No backing cameras, no bells and whistles (or insulation, or even temperature gauge). Hell, there wasn’t even a stereo. You had a smooth and empty plastic console where the idea of a radio belonged, like genitalia on Barbie dolls. For as much as I loved you, I was also embarrassed by you. You were cheaply built. You constantly smelled like sweat and rot, and sounded like the cargo hold of a jet cruiser, even cruising slowly through residential neighborhoods. Inviting somebody to ride in you felt vulnerable, like asking somebody to watch your favorite movie and realizing halfway through they think it’s terrible. I wasn’t embarrassed by you, but by my love for you. Now thanks to a series of reckless choices and questionable decisions, you’re gone. When I told my friends and family about the accident, their immediate concern was for my physical well-being. I’m fine. But I’m coming to terms with the actual weight and significance of this loss. You were a symbol of independence, of taking control. A thing I did for and by myself, even if I did it poorly. And that’s what sits at the heart of this, I guess. Saying goodbye to you feels like saying goodbye to the me who was responsible for you. So: goodbye and thank you. Thank you for keeping me safe. Thank you for starting reliably every time except that one time. Thank you for transporting me and That Cat to this place we call home, which feels somehow pretend just like you did. Like it’s play-acting at real life.
This week, thanks to the generosity of a friend, I’ve been viewing the world from the vantage point of a Jeep Liberty. Even with the seat pulled forward, I have to slouch down low and stretch to pump the clutch, my shin knocking against the steering column. I feel simultaneously foolish and unimaginably powerful bouncing around in that beast. I’ve started searching for your replacement. This go-round I have time and insurance money, and a sweetheart that knows what she’s talking about when she’s talking about cars. I’m going to be alright. Rest easy, old friend.