Once a month I drive the hour south to meet with my therapist, a warm, open, no-bullshit clinical psychologist whose help has earned her top billing on the acknowledgments page should I ever finish my first novel.
Last week I drove during a whiteknuckle icestorm and my odometer ticked over to 250,000 miles. I couldn’t celebrate it, not with a perfunctory woo-hoo or fist pump. I couldn’t open the window and course my hand with and against the drafts. I couldn’t slap the top of the cab and holler, couldn’t honk my horn, couldn’t even mutter a sotto voce my dude to the engine.
By the time I parked, my car looked like a frozen bullet. It looked like a futurist painting, an angular temporal fascist thing. I was late for my session because I was knocking muddy ice from under the wheelbase, one of my life’s truest pleasures.
My first car is my security question to all of my online accounts so I won’t describe it for you here. But my second car is this car, my current car, a 2003 Toyota Matrix in black. I smooched my high school girlfriend in this car, at the beach, which is where you smooch when you’re growing up on Cape Cod and exploring each other in the depths of winter. Once, during the worst snowstorm of the year, I got lost on the way home from the annual battle of the bands and ended up in a snowbank in the principal’s driveway.
This Matrix is still with me after 15 years. I have dreamt about its end in the same way I have about my own: under my terms and control. I will drive it off a pier, or ram it through a thousand lawn signs during an election year, or career it over a thawing lake in April and wait for the crack, the sploosh, the sink, and the final chill.
When the day comes, there’ll be no one able to console me. My 2003 black Matrix, which I’ve never named because I’m not a fucking weirdo, will most likely go peacefully. It will refuse to start. It won’t be a cold day. It won’t be a particularly hot day, either. It’ll just be a day when it happens, no oddity in the weather or major event in the news. I won’t remember the day my car died when it did. It was, or will be, an unremarkable weekday, like the rest of them, like they’ve always been.
After ten minutes of unproductive revving, I’ll bow my head and then call NPR and ask if they’d like to pick it up as a donation. “When you strip it for parts,” I’ll say, “please know that it was a fine vehicle, that as a conveyance it did its thankless job with honor. I’ll take a tote bag if you have one.”
The next month, my therapist will ask, “What do you want to talk about this week?”
“My new car,” I’ll say. “A Japanese-made hatchback, like the last one. May it outlive me like my children.”
Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee recently covered and recorded “Farewell Transmission” by Songs: Ohia. Proceeds from any purchase of this song go to MusicCares, a charity from the Recording Academy that provides help to musicians in need.