We bought our car from a guy who looks like Colonel Sanders with a flat top. He was giving us a good deal on a Honda CR-V, a good car for parents. He had a gap in his front teeth that whistled when he talked and a large swirly white mustache.
“Thanks for your business. This was a good sale. The whole internet thing cuts out all the crap. You know? We can just get right to it.”
As he was showing us how to set up all the personal features, Bluetooth, etc., a shop guy was trying to screw off the old license plates on the car we were leaving behind as a down payment, a black Toyota Celica. The car I’d had since I was a sophomore in college. One bolt on the license plate wouldn’t come lose. He tried and tried, rocking the car back and forth as he tried different wrench sizes. His tattooed arms trembled with effort and his few spaced out teeth showed in frustration. But the bolt was worn down with rust so they finally had to bring the vice grip out.
We drove off the lot but I did not look back at the Celica. Not even in the rear view mirror. I didn’t look back at the car that got me to and from college, to and from my wedding, to and from my first job. It was just a car but a car that had seen the most formative times of my life. A car that I knew right away I wanted to buy as soon as I saw it. A car that became so associated with me people would text me when they saw other black Celicas, thinking they had seen me.
I don’t believe in charmed objects or talismans or good luck charms. When a high school kid buys that car with the money they saved up this summer I don’t think they will feel my ghost looming, or be aided in their misadventures by a magic car with a personality. But the imprint of my body is in that seat. My music vibrated those walls while I careened down many a highway, to and from, to and from. Steam from my wife and I coated the inside of that windshield during a time when our relationship was brand new; fabled and irretrievable years. My clutter was in there. Hangers with ironed pants from weddings I’d been in. Change from things I’d bought. True, the car is just a car. But I don’t know. Maybe when that high school kid wonders about who had the car before them they will feel something like I felt all those days, riding low with the sun in my face. Maybe not. But maybe.