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Goodbye My Love

Monday, January 2, 2012

You were bolt of lightning. For a time I held you in my fist, crackling around my knuckles, snapping at my belt buckle with your forked tongue, vibrating the fillings in my teeth, fusing the change in my pockets. But I let you go, and with you went a seared chunk of myself. Now you are forever lost. The stars are banished from the sky; if I had the strength to gaze above, there would be nothing but an errant jetliner. The faucets pour sand, fixtures cast more shadow than light, fresh produce turns to chalk in my mouth.

My darling, though we had driven through so much together, I failed you. Our collective miles traced the seam of the ocean, the hem of the mountains, melted into sunsets together. We visited the ghettos of hell and came home with souvenirs. It was all my fault; was I who gave up on you. We may have run out of road, but there was gas left in the tank - I know there was! - I could hear you purring until I turned the key and threw you in park forever.

I’ll never forget you, nor the day we met. I was a hot-shot intern in professional baseball and you were a Japanese blade, silver and glittering in the California sunshine as you rolled off the lot. We drove together to Modesto, high on petrol, in the CD player. We had swagger, potential, determination and little else. We didn’t need it, and we didn’t care. We were together. You followed me to Seattle when I asked you to, then sat in the rain waiting for lights to bleed from red to green. For five years we made it work, and for most of it we didn’t even have to try. It was our journey. We were a Fellowship of two.

You followed me further to New York. The trip itself was a song; you carried me as you always have. Six cylinders humming along, breathing the miles, oblivious to the uncertainty of the future even as clouds gathered. But New York couldn’t work; wouldn’t work. Too many people and too few streets. There was nowhere for you to park, and I just didn’t need you anymore. Not like before.

Can you ever forgive me? I now have the train, a 24-hour operation with comprehensive service and consistent reliability. No insurance, no gas, no DUIs. Surely you understand; surely you remember that close call when we faced fate together and nearly lost everything.

We were driving home from that show in September. I was the comedian, the thoughtless one, following the officer’s flashlight with my eyes, touching my nose with my finger, trying to walk a straight line, fumbling the alphabet in reverse. You hugged the road so tight, idling nervously on the shoulder while I kissed the breathalyzer. I blew zeroes and you blew sighs opaque brown cloud from from the muffler. The first sign of trouble.

I couldn’t hold on even though I wanted to. The restaurant fired me; didn’t even give me a reason. I loved that place, a quaint neighborhood spot with great food, and the guests loved me in return. But it was the wrong fit. Management even offered to recommend me somewhere else, but it didn’t ease the pain, and it certainly didn’t cover the rent. I needed the money, and you were a $4,000 car. Everyone said so but the buyers. They saw your scars, where I scraped the dumpster and some asshole clipped us at McDonald’s. They saw your breath rasping out of the exhaust pipe. Worst of all, they saw the service light when I turned your key. I refused to believe it when they said you were dying inside. I denied it. I defied it. “This is a great car!” I would thunder. “I just drove her across the country with no problems!” They didn’t care. Mechanics and risk-averse shoppers don’t look at engines and see heart. They didn’t know how you hugged the road on tight curves, or how you started right up even when frost had your throat in its icy grip. They don’t know what I knew about you. They couldn’t love you like I did, like I still do. A second opinion, and a third, and a fourth, and I sold you out for half your Blue Book value. A couple months’ rent and a few trips to the deli. I fucked up, and I can never get you back.

I got a new job selling steaks in Midtown soon enough after the firing. It was the first of many before I found the hotel gig. I’m doing better now, still riding the train, but I miss you dearly. The streets are lined with strangers. Some Jeep asshole keeps parking in your spot. I hope you are well, that your tires are full, that your new owner knows not to ride the brakes and to keep you several car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you. I hope your airbags are undeployed and your CD player is functioning properly and Bieber-free. Maybe I will see you again some day, idling at a stop sign or sipping gas at the Sunoco. And if I don’t see you on the roads, I’ll remember you in those passing moments, when the clock strikes ten and two, and any time when I have somewhere to be and no one to take me there. Goodbye, my love.


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