It was my car, THE car, the one I always wanted.
From the time I was a kid, I had an idea that I wanted a car just like that one. Sure, in my youth I idealized it, assigned it superpower-like characteristics and fantasized in blissful ignorance of what it would be like to own such a vehicle, but as I grew older, the idea was refined, molded, matured � and I never strayed from wanting that car from my youth.
One day, there it was. As I checked it out, I realized it was everything I ever wanted, and more. The color was more vibrant than I�d imagined, the seats more plush; it rode like a dream. An improved version of the fantasies of my youth was literally within my reach. No matter the cost, no matter what I had to do, I was going to get that car. So, I mortgaged my life and made it happen.
I couldn�t have been happier. For the first few years, instead of growing familiar, I grew amazed at how much better was that car than I�d even imagined it could be. I was so proud. No amount of time and care spent on that car could ever be enough. Through the years, my devotion to that car never wavered � and I never wanted another; I could never imagine driving anything else.
Then, the car was involved in a terrible accident. I was sure it was totaled. Since I�d never even considered being without that car, I was at a loss in how to react. I tortured myself about crashing that car, wondered what I did to contribute to the crash, what I could�ve done differently. Certainly, over time, both me and the car had aged. I�d sometimes let the maintenance slip, put off the oil changes, the tire rotations, missed the check-ups, but those weren�t really significant factors. Though I wanted to punish myself for the loss, the truth is, the crash was clearly the fault of the other driver. Small consolation, when all was said and done.
Though the damage was extreme, I decided not to total the car. For a determined owner, there�s no shortage of how-to instructions, manufacturer and after-market manuals, professionals, and self-appointed experts available to help rebuild a classic. It took a lot of time, care, and replacement parts, but I put that car back together.
Of course, when it was back in the driveway, I scrutinized it. Little imperfections that I might�ve previously passed off as �character,� or �beauty-scars,� now became unacceptable. I worked hard to restore that car, to get it back to its previously-adored condition.
But, despite it all, the car�s just not the same. The steering wheel is slightly skewed. The car drifts almost imperceptibly to the right, a persistent pull toward the ditch. The car makes noises that, I swear, weren�t there before. That car, the object of my devotion, the focus of my life since youth, the conveyance that framed me and defined me for lo, so many years, had been terribly damaged and the lingering effects are evident.
The lingering effects on me are just as real and probably more debilitating than any latent damage to the car: I saw my car with its panels ripped open, its drive-train exposed, fluids pouring into the street. I remember it hunched, broken, suspension collapsed, a heap of rent metal, prone and lifeless against the rail. My mind replays the horrid roar of the impact, the violence as I was tossed about the interior, the deathly silence in the immediate aftermath, and the helplessness and disorientation as my consciousness faltered. Then, the pain.
With such memories, the youthful exuberance and blind devotion I had toward that car is lost forever. The car is not, and can never be, the same. Nor can I.
It�s been a little over a year since the crash. At this time last year, the car was in pieces and I was a broken man, with new injuries being discovered, or inflicted, almost daily. I received very poor care for the first three months following the crash and was forced to tend to my own healing while, at the same time, trying to salvage the car. I�m convinced that this is the primary cause of the recurring pain that still overwhelms me at times. I think proper care immediately after the crash would�ve greatly accelerated my healing.
I don�t really want another car. It�s likely that any replacement would already bear invisible damage or would be at least as susceptible to a crash. Newer models carry no appeal. I�m not inclined to start, at this stage in my life, learning to drive something new. Better for me that I stick with my dream, as damaged and exposed as it is. It�s true that the car will never be the same, but that doesn�t mean it�s bad, or that there�s anything wrong that can�t be fixed. I�ve done the math, and will keep this ride for now.
Most of the time, I look at the car and imagine it�s just as good as, maybe even better than, before. Other times, when the pain from the still-healing injuries swells, I think what was previously unthinkable: that the car and I won�t make it, long-term; that there�s just too much damage to us both. I think that, too much, I still struggle with adjusting to my new reality.
I never knew how much the fidelity of that car meant to me until I lost it. I now know it means a lot. I still don�t know if it means everything. There�s more road to be traveled to find that answer.