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A Letter To My First Car

Dear Layla,

I remember standing in my driveway when your keys got turned over to me. That was back before you got most of the scratches, dents, and stains that I subjected you to, and you were more than flawless in my 16 year old eyes. You were a symbol of freedom; of that trancendental time my life where I was beginning to make my own decisions on who I wanted be. I was facing big choices in life – what college to attend, what major to study, who to date, who to be friends with – and you were the tangible extension of my own free will – the choice to go wherever I desired.

You hauled me thousands of miles to camping trips, proms, homecoming dances, band practices, stage crew Saturdays, and most importantly, always home again. You always started, always moved, and sludged through the miserable Pennsylvania winters by no other virtue other than my request. You were always happy to oblige, always happy to turn over your little 6 cylinders just to move another mile.

I beat the hell out of you, and for that I do not apologize. After all, not ashamed to anthropomorphize you to great extents, I always felt like you were happier when you were getting in to trouble with me. You seemed to run with more vigor, play your music louder, and even sound more joyful when we were doing things in a teenage spurt of frenetic stupidity and foolish, blissful ignorance. I remember those nights in great detail. I always seemed to enjoy you most at night – the nature of a convertible I suppose. We’d careen around corners on the roads behind the landfill scouting for used furniture. We’d put your top down in the dead of winter to see which one of my friends would bitch out first. We’d blast the Black Crowes and drive up to camp and back.

You were so tolerant. You tolerated me taking your poor wheels off-road, down by the railroad tracks, to the cabin in the mud, and just about every other place a Sebring should never go. You tolerated me making out with girls in Oak Hollow park, stuffing whiskey in your trunk, and sleeping inside of you at parties because I’d rather be uncomfortable with you then warmly sprawled out on the floor alone. I remember you hauling my stupid teenage ass up to Penn State in the dead of winter to see a girl you knew wasn’t right for me, and you happily kept me warm and safe every mile.

Even at the very end of our time together, you seemed like you didn’t want to quit. The mechanic told me you’d be too expensive to fix, but it didn’t seem like anything was wrong. You taught me that a check-engine-light is nothing more than a friendly reminder that your car is well-loved. You always started. You always put in a few more miles in the dead of night. You enabled me to be who I am, and you watched me grow. You spent every day with me during high school, and then sat for weeks on Hobart street in the cold when I was too stubborn to let myself go home for the weekend, determined to make friends in college. You even let me name you after that stupid Eric Clapton song.

By now, you are sitting in a junk yard somewhere. Hopefully mostly in one piece, but the pit of my stomach tells me that you still had enough valuable parts hanging on your skeleton to be distributed.  But I do believe cars have souls, I believe every object we use in this world to feel alive keeps a little bit of our spirit – and honey, you had a lot of it. So all I can tell your soul is that I am grateful for your sacrifice, but I hope I am truthful in thinking that even though I probably made your life a little shorter, I made it a lot better for both of us. I hope the other sedans were so fucking jealous of you because they were forced to drive their owners to and from work every day while I was flying at insane speeds on the back roads of my youth at night just because you felt so damn good to drive. I hope you forgive me for taking you for granted, for not always keeping up with your simple maintenance needs, and for simply expecting you to work for me. I hope you had a happy life, and that your soul is still in the ether somewhere.

Remember our last song together? Remember where we parked and listened to it? I do, and I still go there a few times a summer just to think about it.

Thank you for freeing me,

N


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