I talked to him for the first time this morning. Sunday. He called at 9:15 and said they would be there to pick her up at 1:00. At 12:15, he pulled in front of the driveway, and just like that, she was gone.
We didn’t have much of a history; I’d known her for less than two of her 25 years. I called her “Lady”, and from my part she was that. As difficult and fussy as they come, but proud and comforting in her small frame.
It was something I’d been thinking of since I took home a younger model in April. The two of them could not both fit in the one space I had, but still, I was attached. This was the first large transaction I’d ever made entirely on my own.
The first of my fleet was another 1987. The black Nissan Sentra hatchback got the name “Trixie” from being one of those small cars you can’t see when looking for parking, until you’ve already turned to take what you thought to be a vacant spot.
I won this car in a raffle at my high school. The year before a local dealership had started a used car giveaway to one lucky high school senior. In 1998 it was me. There was some speculation that the drawing was fixed, since my father worked at the school, but the rumors couldn’t get to me. I had a car. I felt free.
I slapped some flower stickers on the windows and took the little black bandit north to Jersey all summer. Eventually we went as far north as Montreal and drove into Dixie long enough to scrape across northern Alabama.
Before long, the ride began to show signs of why it may have been free, and found its untimely end when it smacked into a large oak.
Then, along came Maggie, a 1990 Dodge Caravan from an auction. The best feature was that it could comfortably fit the futon mattress I’d pulled out of an Amherst College dumpster on its floor. I had slept in the Sentra, but it wasn’t easy. This, was luxury.
Or it was, until a head gasket blew on the New Jersey turnpike and I swore off used junkers. Prepared for a career interviewing heads of state and local heros in every direction, I made my next choice the serious “new car” option.
It was the make and model of my favorite little car to borrow in high school. The Mazda Protégé. It was black. It had a moon roof. It was brand new. That was in 2001, and it was still not entirely paid off when I sold it some years later on the other side of the country. I had yet to need reliable transport to the White House, and my preferred travel methods had changed to bike, train, bus, horse and buggy and tractor. In that order.
I miss that period terribly. I was invariably content with the transportation options left to me. Of course, that was living in Portland, Oregon, where the rules of physics and restrictions of reality tend not to apply. Back in real time, it got hard. I managed for quite a few years in rural New England risking life and limb along poorly lit country roads, and it was not an easy decision to give up the freedom that comes with being motor-free.
“Lady”, however, changed all that. She had a way of taming a gal, without her ever knowing she was on the leash. This chapter, too, though has come to a close. The American way is funny. We tend to measure time in increments of four years (“When I was in high school . . .”), by what mechanical beast drags us around, or which bar owner was paying rent on the corner (“But that was when it was Mickey’s place . . .”), or who we kissed goodnight. The years, the numbers, we can only recall them in a context, not for themselves. From my view, this is preferable. The numbers only serve to connect our separate contexts, and maybe there’s something to that. Maybe the events that seem meaningless are part of a pattern, only recognizable when we stop and stare. So let’s make this one interactive.
On December 2, 2012, I was in Burlington, Vermont. I ate a scone and drank a coffee. I sent my pick-up truck to Georgia, and then it was no longer mine. I talked on the phone with a friend in Hawaii, and one from Georgia. The one in Hawaii had been in an accident where a truck flipped over. It had happened two months ago in Massachusetts, but this was the first I’d heard. She had 30 pieces of glass taken out of her arm. I bought four gallons of gas (just over) in a red plastic container. I didn’t use it. I took a long walk with my fella. It was windy. I came home. Had tea. Made some granola. Almost burnt it. Then I sat down and wrote this.
Where were you?