I bought a new car. My old car was originally Patrick’s. He bought it in a fit of uncharacteristic fiscal responsibility — a 1998 Honda Accord. I was still living in Salt Lake, finishing my PhD. Patrick called me up and said he was thinking of selling his big Ford 150 4-wheel drive truck and buying a car. A regular car, but a new one. He’d cleaned up his credit some, and the Ford was a gas pig, and he was driving all over the Bay Area for his job. So he bought the Honda — and his big splurge was the leather interior. A few years later, when we were roommates, he decided he didn’t like being close to the ground like that, and bought what I now think of as “that Bronco” (I never liked that truck, and always did think it was tippy). So he sold me the Honda. It was a great car, but since his accident, I’ve been really kind of freaked out by it. Now that I have both dogs full time, it hasn’t seemed big enough. And now that I have to haul all my own stuff — like from Home Depot or Costco, now that there isn’t Patrick and the Bronco for backup, I wanted something bigger.
And I’m afraid. I’ve never been a bold driver, but now I’m scared. I wanted something safe, so I went to Bozeman yesterday and I bought a Subaru Outback with all-wheel drive and lots of passenger cage reinforcement and for those of you who are not tall people, this really nice feature that adjusts the shoulder belt so it doesn’t cut across your neck. I bought a new car. My first new car. It’s red. It has a grille in the back to keep the dogs back there, which is a good idea because Raymond (who was technically Patrick’s dog, although we got him as a puppy when we were roommates in California, so I sort of raised him too), well, Raymond likes to creep up on you when you’re driving and stick his tongue in your ear. Which is often delightful in a kind of doggy sort of way, but now I’m scared, and I’m afraid that he’ll do it while it’s icy out, when the weather is bad, when someone else isn’t paying attention and we’ll all die in a firey car crash.
And one of the nice things about small towns (or small-ish in the case of Bozeman) is that when you unexpectedly burst into tears while wandering the lot with the car salesman and blurt out that you need to buy a new car because your brother just died in a single-car rollover and you’re scared, they’re nice to you, and although you didn’t intend to buy a new car, with that kind of interest rate, you might as well buy a new car, and start fresh.
So I have a new red car, and the dogs seem okay back there in doggy-jail, and it’s nice to have the rubber mat for when they’re wet and muddy and have just come out of the river. And not only did Patrick never own this car, no one else ever owned it either. A fresh start.