Friday, as I drove across Thompsons Station Road to Lewisburg Pike, a swarm of dragonflies buzzed toward my windshield. I laughed out loud, then choked on the laugh. My chest tightened. I saw another dragonfly in the Johnson grass next to the highway. Dragonflies come to give assurance.
I wrapped my hands tightly around the steering wheel of the red Outback, then opened them and rubbed the arc on the wheel’s left side and the right. His hands held this wheel. It was his car.
How could I do this?
I merged onto I-65, and the tears came. They poured. I couldn’t stop them. I had to quit crying…I couldn’t complete the deal like this…I couldn’t go through the paperwork and the taking and the leaving. I must be the only sentimental fool in the world to cry over trading an old car in.
When I arrived at the dealership, I lingered in the front seat and patted the steering wheel. “Good bye, old girl.” She was a good ride. She was his for the first five years. He died the month before she was paid off. I let the memories scroll.
She took us on a joy ride around Nashville during her early weeks as we checked her out. We stopped for coffee and donuts. My husband never cared about anything being messy. He didn’t care if dust piled up on shelves or if the bed never got made. But he watched me eat that donut, as if daring me to drop one piece of glazed sugar. When I did, he fussed, and it was out of character for him. But it was his new car, and he loved her. Then he went on to spill coffee nearly every morning on her beige carpet.
She was a working girl. Her tag was personalized: GENISYS. She carried dozens of computers and peripherals to GENISYS customers. I left her sign in the backseat pocket: DELIVERY IN PROGRESS — GENISYS Systems Group. Charlie would put it on the windshield when he had to park at the front door of an office building to deliver something to a customer. She was rear-ended when she was still new as she raced to Green Hills the morning our publishing company customer burned to the ground, losing every single thing. Charlie was retrieving a backup tape kept off-site to restore their data and transfer it to new computers so the company could be up and running the following day. He was a hero, and so was she. She served well.
Then she was mine. She carried me and my husband’s ashes to Knoxville for disbursing. She carried mulch, rocks, flowers, and trees. She even carried my nine and a half-foot kayak. She carried the dog to vet and grooming appointments. She carried books to festivals. She carried loads of wrapped presents for eleven Christmases.
It was hard to let her go. It was hard to let her go because she was his.
But I drove away in a new white Outback. I bought my first car. Through the years and all the cars, there has always been a man’s name first. I was always the co-buyer.
This time, I’m the buyer. And she’s mine.