I was making really excellent time. Between waking up early and taking a new shortcut between Auntie M’s and the highway, I was going to make it back to Westport twenty minutes earlier than I’d originally planned, giving me time to take a nice, hot shower and do some final editing before my two o’clock play rehearsal. I was racing a bit; I wanted to give a final read through and enter some minor changes into my manuscript before the work week began.
Then I heard this weird sound. It was a tapping. Or a clicking. Clicking is more accurate. My car began to sound like a clock, being wound manually through its back side. I pulled my foot off the gas pedal, and the sound stopped for a moment. I sighed. Just a weird quirk, I told myself. And my car is more than entitled to have quirky moments every once in a while. Especially today, less than an hour after she’d hit 212,000 miles.
But then the clock sound started again. Soon, I could hear it over the music. It went from the sound of someone winding a clock to the sound of a car winding down. And a moment later, I was on the side of the road, staring at a green sign with the numbers “74” painted in white. My car had made her last sound.
My car, for those who don’t know, is very important to me. Her name is Big Mama, and I’ve had her since about a month after my mom passed away. Mama was my mother’s before she became mine, and for months after Mom died, I would drive with the windows up so I could retain the smell of my mother in the car’s upholstery. I talked to that car every day. I’d call her my “pretty girl.” She moved me from Syracuse to Alabama, then to Pennsylvania, then home to Knox and down to Connecticut.
When I first began building a new life in Connecticut a little more than two years ago, after a more-than-devastating breakup, I sometimes felt like that car was my only friend. She didn’t smell like Mom any more, but she was still a safety blanket. No. She’s not snazzy; Mama’s a 15-year-old station wagon with more rust spots than I have freckles in the summertime. But that car had heart.
I called a tow truck company today, maintaining my composure as I told him the situation. But when I hung up the phone, I realized that this was more than a bump in the road. I was going to have to say goodbye to my pretty girl. I called my father, who told me to start thinking about what kind of car I’d be buying in the next few days. He told me Mama will likely be heading to a scrap yard, and I should start gathering all my personal things. I’d have to pull them out of there today.
So I did. I climbed over my seat to the passenger’s side and out the door, walking around to the back seat, so I could begin to rummage through the various items I have in my car. And I cried. Oh my Lord, I cried. It’s not a pretty thing to admit, because I know I was being completely overdramatic, but I fired up Adele’s Something Like You on my iPhone and began blasting it through Mama’s speakers as I tossed shoes into a shopping bag and old Dunkin’ Donuts receipts and other garbage into another.
Never mind, I’ll find someone like you.
I wish nothing but the best for you too.
Don’t forget me, I begged, remember you said
Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts too.
I know. It’s the most cliché thing to cry to these days. But I wept. I wept on a snow-dusted patch of grass on the shoulder of the Thruway, as I came to the realization that I will probably never sit in that passenger’s seat again. I’ll be in something shinier, but it won’t be the same. It won’t be Mama.
The tow truck driver came and dropped me off at a diner (that’s where I am right now, writing this — though there’s no internet, so I’ll likely upload it from home later). I have four bags with me, carrying my manuscript, laptop, a sweater and clothes from the weekend, and the hostess couldn’t understand that I wanted a table for one. She kept asking, “Two? Two? You mean two?”
No. I mean one. I’m having a lousy day, Ma’am. I just said goodbye to my car, who is really a friend. I’m in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near New Paltz, when I should be nearing the Connecticut border. I’m not going to make rehearsal today. My boyfriend — God bless him, he really is the best and I don’t know what I’d do without the poor guy; he never fails to do whatever it takes to be there for me — is on his way to get me, but the battery in his car died last night, so he’s waiting for a jump in downtown Stamford first. I’m not going to finish polishing my book today. Instead of working on grammar and punctuation at the Library, I’m here. And it’s just me, Ma’am. Just me. A table for one.
Just let me be. Let me sit here and cry. Let me hide my puffy eyes from all these people who won’t stop staring at me. Let me ignore the fact that this would make a perfect country music song. Let me just think, and let me absorb. Let me write so I can wrap my mind around this. Let me realize that this car is not my mother and this day is not a second funeral. Let me have an hour-and-a-half in a booth, where I can forget that I’m unshowered and wearing a sweater covered in fur from Dad’s dog. Let me tell myself this is not a new low, and that SMB will be here soon and he will kiss my forehead and tell me to stop worrying, because we’ll figure it out. Let me delete that damn Adele song off my iTunes account.
Let me be. Let me write. And then everything will be okay.