Just a Thing

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Car for sale – A steel grey, 2007 Camry.

The first time I stepped into this car, I was a new bride, far from home. My husband held my henna-ed hand with his free one as he drove me home from the airport while I looked out through the window at the huge, spiral freeways, the San Francisco fog, the Hangar One dome, and the nerdy avenues of the Silicon Valley.

That coin-sized discoloration on the dashboard is where my little Ganesha idol used to sit. I bought it after I passed my driving test. I remember practicing my turns and merges in an empty parking lot in the neighborhood, clutching the steering wheel like a life raft. The entire city honked at me when I took her out on the freeway for the first time. Those little fraying threads on the steering wheel are anxiety scratches.

That scuff mark on the right is from when we bought our first house. Our narrow tandem garage just wouldn’t let us in without sacrificing some of that shiny grey paint. My mother would call it warding off the evil eye. We never got around to fixing it, but if there really was an evil eye, it has been warded off well.

Our little girl came home in the car seat at the back. I laugh now when I look back at how clueless I was. I struggled to get her tiny body in the car seat. The newborn jammies were a size too big. She cried all the way home. My husband drove in the right lane throughout, turning around every once in a while to glance at us in the backseat. We were carrying precious cargo home.

I remember those midnight drives to get her to sleep. The Camry never once complained. I’m sure you’ll find Cheerios and animal crackers in some cranny in the back seat, thanks to my now four-year-old.

I picked at the steering wheel threads again on the first day of preschool. I lingered around for some time trying to get a look at her before the teacher shooed me away. I sat in the car and sobbed like a kid who was denied candy. The Camry was my place of refuge, my sanctuary.

The interior has held all my emotions with quiet patience, whether it was my anger after a fight with my husband, my exhaustion after dealing with my child’s tantrums, my dejection while driving home after a bad day at work, or my happiness when my parents visited. Driving always brought me peace, if only momentarily.

I have no choice but to say goodbye to it as we move on to new shores. But the heart aches. Human nature is strange. How funny is it that we attach so much value to things when we carry the real memories within us. I just have to keep reminding myself that my car is just a thing, nothing more.

Now if only I could stop the tears.

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