The car was a real beauty. The body was a seamless forest of dark green paint, apart from the myriad of scrapes and dents. The convertible soft-top was stuck halfway between up and down, with more holes than fabric, letting the rain drown the backseat. That was okay, though, because the doors no longer had handles, and I had to hoist myself over the door to get into the car.
But boy, could that baby drive. Zero to forty in just under three minutes. Any faster, and the car’s check engine light would blink on and the car would come to a screeching halt.
My first kiss happened in that ripped and stained backseat. The night was chilly, and the roof was stuck open as always. Alright, not my first kiss, but it was the first one I counted. The first one that meant something. We hid beneath an old wool blanket I had, under a light in the parking lot of the old stadium.
Just under two layers of rust, I knew that chrome was gleaming bright like the day it was made. Hidden in the depths of creaking, clunking, screeching, scratching, ticking, tapping, and groaning, I knew that engine was purring. It was an old cat who still had heart. A diseased heart, no doubt, but a heart nonetheless.
The tan leather seats had directly weathered more storms than I had seen. The yellow foam stuffing was coming out of the rips, and decades of use had painted the leather in a mural of stains.
It wasn’t some top of the line car, fresh from a car lot, and the kids at my high school never saw it for what it was.
They saw the chipped green paint, the rusted rims, the horrible grinding noise from second to third gear, and the broken roof.
I saw opportunity.
I saw a chance to escape this place. This was my Enterprise. My Falcon. This was my ticket out of here, whether it moved at twenty miles an hour or sixty.
This was the key to happiness, and it was mine.
I took it across the country. I spent four weeks getting to California and six weeks getting back, inching myself across the roadmap.
When I married the girl from the backseat, we tied strings of cans to the bumper and rode on out of there.
I drove it to work on the first day of my first job out of college, and I drove it away when I quit that job two weeks later.
One day the car clunked loudly, and died. No fanfare. No heavenly bells, or war drums in the distance.
A tow truck dragged my car to a mechanics; an unfit end for such a creature.
The mechanic said, “This car was living on borrowed time. The engine block is cracked, the transmission shot. You’ve got water damage throughout, not to mention, no more power steering. I assume you already know the roof is broken and the electronics are largely gone?”
I did know. I didn’t drive with music anyway; I liked the sound of wind. And only one of the front lights worked, so I taped a flashlight over the other light, turning it on to drive at night on the rare occasions I did.
I missed work that day. That was okay. No one expected me to be there since I worked for myself.
I didn’t know what to do. My wings were clipped. My freedom was gone. I had to live like everyone else, now. Caged.
My wife consoled me as I cried, weeping over the loss of my oldest friend. My confidant.
As the days passed the hurt started to fade.
I went out to buy a new car. Something more ‘practical.’ Something safe. With airbags. And a fully functional roof. And doors. Four of ‘em.
It wasn’t the same. My key to happiness was broken. I was left with this unimaginative block of rank-and-file engineering. There wasn’t a soul in that car. No personality. No name. It was just a tool. A glorified cart.
On the eve of my fiftieth birthday, my wife asked me to come outside. She said she ran into an old friend of mine.
She found my wings. Dark forest green, and a rotting soft top stuck halfway down. Chrome might have glimmered somewhere under the rust, and leather that showed its age like I showed mine.
“It took a while,” the girl from the backseat all those years ago said. “But I was able to find you one from the same year. Probably the same factory floor.”
When I started the car, it purred like a cat on its deathbed.
It was perfect.