Surefoot, my truck
I won her in a poker game after getting out of jail – a 1985 Nissan pickup truck, faded yellow, full of dents, a disintegrating interior, a busted radio and no turn indicators. Certainly, she didn’t look like much, but that was OK. Though I am a lover of beauty, form tends not to trump function. And she never let me down. Aside from minor repairs and oil changes (all of which I did myself), she didn’t cost me a dime. Together we crossed the country six times, through 45 states. To keep from losing my mind, I wired a stereo into the cigarette lighter, and when the music got old, I’d speak to her in Spanish and sing country songs.
It’s never been my nature to get attached to material things, and I’ve never respected fancy cars or the people who drive them. I’m not a ‘car guy.’ But there was something different about my truck. I mean, she wasn’t a material thing per se; no…she was my horse. Every time I went over a bump I deemed too heavy, I tapped the dash with empathy, as if to say, “I’m sorry.”
Am I completely nuts or embarrassingly sentimental? Well, sure—but that’s not the point. The point, is that sometimes we need to give thanks to that which achieves the impossible for us, asking nothing in return, because it proves that there are indeed good things out there, and even if they’re steaming hunks of ugly metal with lousy paint jobs, well…if nothing else, you think, if a mere machine can do it, then damnit, so can I. It’s an odd moment in life when an object can inspire one so.
After she got me out of New York City that last time in August, we drove without air conditioning or music for 60 hours from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Bay Bridge, and with every pressed moment against the accelerator, every extra mile clipped off on the odometer, I kept thinking, thank you, thank you, thank you. Even when we hit that bald eagle outside of Akron, ripping off my windshield wiper and smashing the passenger side of the window, we trucked on, knowing that in some weird way, we’d absorbed the spirit of a great nation. And as I passed into Nevada from the Utah border, I could’ve swore I saw myself, seven years younger, heading in the opposite direction, full of hope. Hitting the next and final border before the great Pacific, I spontaneously cried out what in that moment was my favorite word, ever: California.
One day her motor just wouldn’t turn. I knew that it would happen sometime, but I was still shocked. Sitting in the driver’s seat I thought of how I had traversed this strange and lonely continent so many times in search of what all of my heroes—alcoholic and suicidal writers—dubbed “The American Dream.” And I didn’t realize until then that I had been sitting in it the entire time. Who would’ve thought she’d be Japanese?
Sure, I could have poured more cash into delaying the inevitable. But we both knew it was over. Sometimes, you just have to let go.
I had her towed to a pasture outside Tehachapi, CA, and I turned her into flower planter beneath an Oak tree. No wrecking yard will scrap her; not my sure-footed Nissan.
I haven’t bought a car since; I tend to ride the bus.
Filed under: stories of heartbreak | 4 Comments