Remember that scene in "Neverending Story" where Atrayu had to watch his trusty horse, Artax, sink to a miserable death in the Swamp of Sadness? That's basically what's going on with my car.
My poor car, Doxology. Named after Sam Hamilton's horse, which is a reference to Steinbeck's "East of Eden" for those of you not in the know.
I know it's stupid, it's just a car, it's not a horse or a family member or even alive at all, but damn - it's Doxology. That car has been there for more with more consistency and grace than anyone else I've known in the six years I've had him. He's moved me more times than I can count - sometimes across town and once it was to Maryland. On the drive back from Maryland, with 90% of everything I owned crammed into every available inch of the car, a blizzard chased us through five states for two days. Doxology held on, though - we got through just fine.
When we got t-boned in that hit and run, he still ran. You couldn't use the passenger door at all, and ever since then the wind might catch that door just the wrong way and give the car an unexpected tug, but he could stil get from point A to point B. He wasn't pretty, but I'm not a proud person, so it didn't matter.
I have this family that isn't my family. I call them my adopted family, which is close enough and not really the point of the story. The youngest daughter in the family, she and I are pretty close, like sisters. At least, we were when she lived here. On warm summer nights she and I would ride around in Doxology - through lower Wacker Drive, up Lake Shore Drive, around that park across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo, then back home. Just me and my sister, blaring music and joyriding. I miss having her here, miss her fucking with the radio and throwing trash out the window, no matter how much I yelled at her for it.
Sometimes when I drive along now, I remember when I was in Maryland and my sister's kids were in the car. The youngest would crawl up to her car seat and say, "Aunt Maggie, you have to clean this car!" And I'd laugh and tell her to make a car payment and I'd think about it.
I remember driving with all three of my sister's kids one day after there had been a lot of snow. My back window was caked in snow. I warmed up the car but couldn't find the snow brush, so the snow stayed on the back window. As we rounded a corner, the kids were all turned around (as best they could, being buckled in) trying to watch the patch slide off the back. It slid a little one way, sort of teasing the audience. It slid up when we hit a bump, then back down; its audience was captive and brimming with excitement. When it finally slid off into a ditch, the kids cheered like it was some great accomplishment. Their cheers still ring in my ears sometimes, when I need a reason to smile.
Doxology has been there for me when I'm scared, or excited, or crying so hard I can barely drive. It's helped deliver me and countless friends home safely. Most of those friends are now scattered and gone, but Doxology and I still muddle through.
Long gone are the days when I'd drive down to Kankakee just for the sake of going for a drive in the middle of the night. Hell, for the past three weeks I considered myself lucky if I could make it over the bridge at the end of my street. Gone are the days I'd spend waiting to get back to my car, where I had the day's only guaranteed air conditioning or heat, depending on the season.
Poor Dox. I changed his plug wires last night, it made everything worse. I tried to drive around the block, he froze up on me. The steering wheel locked when I was in an intersection with moving traffic. I had to re-start him four times just to get back around the rest of the block. He's twelve years old, with 122,000 miles. That's pretty good for an Escort that's been through what he's been through. A friend of mine back east says it's time to do the respectful thing and just let him go out with some dignity. She's not the one facing a 90-minute commute (each way) now that Dox has two tires in the grave. She's also not the one who has only been able to count on Dox and Dox alone all these years. Friends, lovers, family - they came and went. Dox held on. Dox got me where I needed to go. Dox was my 2-door sanctuary with a hatch back and a busted dome light. Dox was my Artax, and my empty wallet is his Swamp of Sadness.