I’m sitting writing this in the dark behind the wheel of my 1996 Rav4, parked outside Runge Auto and Tire, waiting for my friend Angel to come by and take me home. Tim Runge will know what to think when he sees it outside his door tomorrow morning, long before I can call to explain.
It’s a perfect, quiet moment when there is nothing else to do but say goodbye. Just in case.
My faithful steed has carried me and many derby girls the leagues between Chicago’s North Side and Fleetwood Speed Team practice. She has parked on top of snow-piles created by people who cleared the snow off their own space in front of their own house and piled it up in front of their neighbors’ house. She has negotiated streets slick with ice, lugged the contents of bookstores-in-transit. She helped me rescue a very muddy and shaggy old collie mix who had run away from home, having shifted houses and decided to return to the old house on her own.
This is the two-door Rav4, the original model, the one that got the design award in Tokyo in 1995. Every mechanic and body-man who has worked on her has offered to buy her from me. She has been rear-ended three times, door dinged, sideswiped twice and once left for dead. Her original elegant teal and silver crosshatch paint job on her doors is long gone. Her roof is pitted with rust. Her running boards came off in a car wash (left running board) and fell off on Lake Shore Drive (right running board). Her tape deck died ten years ago, her CD player six years ago. Her hood has been dented, her windshield replaced twice after flying pebbles cracked it. Her rear defroster started working miraculously two years ago after having worked fitfully or not at all for a good eleven years. Her electronic key entry and alarm system was disabled when it began to shriek randomly; I was too cheap to pay the dealership to replace it. Carelessness made me bend one of the supports that keeps the passenger seat behind the driver from falling into the cargo space; that was at least fifteen years ago, and since then it has been held together with white athletic tape (my personal duct tape). Her front floor mats still smell like aged horse manure during wet weather, though we haven’t ridden horses in eight years. We’ve had her air conditioning fixed three times, and at least four times her exhaust system (a vulnerability on this model of the Rav) has fallen off in transit, once when I was out in the countryside with nothing but some plastic twine to tie it up and get herhome with. Since we replaced her engine, she stopped throwing up random “check engine” codes; cold comfort, as that heart transplant took place last summer.
Her name was Biscuit.
And today, well, today.
I don’t know why her flayrod went out on treadle, or whatever it has done this evening, in the middle of the expressway at rush hour. I limped home in low gear, revving anxiously at stoplights. I don’t know if she can be repaired for under a thousand dollars. I don’t know if we’ll want to pay for the repair. Probably. It’s still cheaper to nurse Biscuit along than to sell her, finally, to one of those eager young mechanics who have lusted after her. Might have to give her to him. She’s a lot older than when he first cast covetous eyes on her. I wonder if he’ll love her the way I have. Probably. He’s been fixing her for years.
Tomorrow I’ll be fed up with nursing Biscuit along and then having her go blooey on me in traffic.
Tonight I’m saying goodbye. In case it really is, this time.