That's a question I ask myself all the time. I guess the most obvious answer is because I don't have a car anymore. I sold it before moving to Brooklyn. Before Brooklyn, I lived in Syracuse, where my vehicle died, mostly by overheating in the snow.
Before that, I used a drive away service in Los Angeles to have some guys drive my car cross-country to New York. I knew they were guys because they kept calling me along the way, telling me about the problems they were having with it. My car didn't want to go anywhere. It kept throwing fits like a bratty kid that had to be coaxed by pouring water in it every 80 miles or something like that. The guys got fed up with the whole thing when the car broke down in Texas.
I had flown into Syracuse days before, ready to start my life as a graduate student in Syracuse. I had packed my whole life into 50 boxes and had them shipped to me in my little attic apartment just blocks from campus. I was getting phone calls from the guys while I was registering for classes, and meeting the other students in the program who would become part of my life there. When I got the call that the car had stalled in Texas, I wasn't ready to leave it stranded there. It would have been like leaving my past littered somewhere out in the middle of the country where I've never been.
The car had been new once. I bought it in 1997 when I was working in television advertising. I had just begun to make money, and the car was sparkling, and proud to be driven around town, to and from appointments, fancy lunches, clubs, and handed off like a debutante from valet to valet. It started showing its age years later, when I began to want to be a writer, and when I began to make less glamorous decisions about my life. I don't think the car liked being parked in Hollywood outside of the non-profit where I worked, and it must have turned its head when I passed by it driving the gaudy after school program van that was like a mural on wheels.
The people at the drive away service gave me the option of paying to put my car on a truck that was on its way to Syracuse. About a week later, I met up with the truck driver at a truck stop. I felt out of place there, and a little bit miniature standing around the trucks, dizzy with the smell of gasoline. The driver had unloaded the car and parked it just a few yards away. It was unrecognizably caked in dirt. If it had once been a sparkling debutante, the car was now an indignant homeless woman.
“There’s no gas in the tank,” the truck driver drawled. He had me sign some papers and gave me a receipt to verify that he had delivered the car.
He had thoughtfully parked the car right in front of a gas pump. I filled up the tank and carefully sat in the driver seat. Inside, there was nothing out of place. But there was something in the way the molecules were rearranged that made it seem like other people were in there with me.
“I need to find a car wash,” I said to myself. I put the key in the ignition, and the car started. I half expected it to stall, or for the car to petulantly cross its arms and say no. I started to drive toward the street. The car was driving a little sluggishly, maybe weighted down by all the dirt and its travails on its journey here. And I was driving slower than usual, since I wasn’t confident about how to get back home. I felt really grateful then that I didn’t have any children, or a husband that I had dragged along on this adventure. As it was, I was feeling guilty every time someone looked in the direction of my terrifically dirty car.
“Don’t they know who I am?” the mortified car asked me.
It doesn’t matter anymore, I thought. This is where we start new. The story begins here.