Requiem For A Machine

Alert but lazy-headed, stretched out on the sofa, I hear the moan, the sound of a mule’s ghost, as Amy pulls out to go to work.

Just the day before I had watched Amy force her laundry basket through the glassless pukey window, and I thought about the coming winter. I thought about rain. In the coming months there would likely be some. “Normally, when it rains,” she explained to me, “I just carry a big towel with me and only half of my back or half of my ass gets wet. It’s OK. But what does suck is when the rain gets in the driver’s window and it just falls down all by itself. You keep having to push it back up. Just try smoking a cigarette like that.”

Moments after she leaves, my phone rings. “Amy Cell Calling” the readout says.

A 1995 Ford Escort (“Gee Tee” Amy reminds me, swinging her hips with the letters), Purple, the BarneyMobile, the Purple People Eater, the Purple Beast, but lately simply “bitch”. Only the AM radio works, the seatbelts don’t work, and “the airbags don’t work or they would have deployed a long time ago.” Arrayed across the window are countless parking stickers for colleges.

Car Shrine “My car just took a fucking dump on me,” Amy says over the phone, “I’m in the middle of Riviera and people are about to hit me.” She describes the symptoms. Transmission. Probably shot.

“Almost ten years,” she told me over coffee one day. “The longest relationship I’ve ever had. I drove up to New York in that car. I was with my boyfriend. At one point I was driving and I sniffed my armpit and said, ‘I need to shower.’ I found out later he had just farted.” It’s funny the stuff you think of when you’re saying goodbye. Something that was lost almost forever is suddenly right there, never gone. A laugh, a shared fart, a moment in life.

“I’ll be right there,” I say. I scrounge up fresh socks and schlump out to my wheels. The passenger seat is filled with travel debris and luggage, but I decide that time is important if the bitch (I’m referring to the car, of course) is in the middle of the road.

My own memories of the car don’t stretch back so far; tonight I have seen pictures of the car when it was new, and honestly it’s hard to connect the two. For me it will always be the pile of loosely-stacked metal with seats somewhere in the middle. Death Trap. Cop Bait. Moving Violation. It is no more. Tonight we pulled out all the miscellaneous crap that had built up over the years – lighters, CD’s, tapes (no tape player for the last five years), empty packs of smokes, kitty litter, and an endless list of odds and ends.

A shrine stands on her coffee table, heavy with the symbolism of her first true love.

12 thoughts on “Requiem For A Machine

  1. Ah, the fond memories a car can inspire. For me, it was a 1982 Toyota Corolla (well, actually, we later found out it was the front half of one 1982 Corolla and the back half of another) which we bought in desperation when the ’81 Grand Prix diesel died. It turned out to be the most reliable car (or two halves of a car) that we’d ever owned.

    It was my commuting car when I was living in Los Alamos and taking classes at UNM in Albuquerque. I called it “Grane” (prize goes to the first reader who can place the reference). Over the years, that car hauled a half a ton of stuff in a U-Haul from Houston to Los Alamos after Pat lost his job in the oil glut, toted Boy Scouts to a ski vacation in Crested Butte, Colorado, and went up the Teamsters’ Nightmare in Bland Canyon. It never let me down.

    Finally, old age caught up to it. It never had any major problems, but it developed a lengthy list of minor problems that would have cost far more to repair than the car was worth. I stuck a “For Sale” sign on it, and a couple of weeks later, one of the neighbors had a garage sale, and one of the garage sale customers bought the car for $650 cash (I’d been asking $700). I joke that I made more off the neighbor’s garage sale than the neighbor did.

    Ironically, about a year later, the guy who bought the car showed up as a student in one of my classes.

  2. I must say that my feelings are divided; it was a good friend to Amy but a scourge has been lifted from the streets of PB. The fall of the bitch certainly has to increase Amy’s potential life span (Ciggies not withstanding). Somehow though, PB has lost yet another icon of it’s funkiness.

    The car had a fever and the only prescription was more cowbell! Adieu purple beater.

    PS. The picture of the shrine is sub-optimal. Given Jerry’s talent as a paparazzi, I can only infer that flash photography is not allowed in the temple.

  3. I brightened the picture up a bit – let me know if that’s better. The flash pics didn’t come out well, although one captured the smoke of the incense nicely.

  4. my love has left me whats a girl to do the bitch didn’t even give any warning that she wanted out of my life…that car has been more places then people have my freedom now lies in a bike thats not even mine that car was the first thing big that i ever bought and now i have nothing to show for my excellent bartending abilities except drunk friends and a hang over

  5. Aahhh, I’ve driven the bitch a couple of times. Each time, I’ve had the pedal jammed all the way to the floor and wondered exactly how Aimes manages to get it to go that fast. Few people could make it take a hard right at 50 miles an hour. Fewer still get it to 50 miles an hour that quickly. She was a magic beast, fed by second hand smoke, fumes of many scrumptious beers, hosts of ill advised shots and the sweet smell of intoxicated dance sweat. We’ll not mention the pukey window. I’ve never seen such a small automobile host such a plethora of variously sized objects. And she always, always made a statement.

    The statement varied.

  6. What a perfect NaNoWriMo project: The life story of a car, told by that car. This could do for automobiles’ rights what Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty did for animal rights. Aimes, since you loved that car, you’re the one in the best position to let it tell its story through you.

    I can see the chapter titles now: “My Assembly Line,” “My Arrival at the Dealership,” “My New Owner,” and so on.

  7. Kommt das name “Grane” von den fliegende pferd des Valkyrie Brunhilde im den Ring Oper des Herr Musik komposist Wagner? (very bad German, seine verzeihung)

  8. altavista’s babel fish translator converts that to

    “That comes name “Grane” of the flying horse of the Valkyrie Brunhilde in the ring opera Mr. Musik wagner komposist”

    Which means I still don’t know what you said. I assume it’s a reference to the car, but was Grane supposed to translate to something?

  9. Yes, and one of the big points the other Valkyries made when discussing Grane with Brunhilde — Grane was a gelding, not a stallion. That was especially important.

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