11/15/18

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

A ludicrous love story. Between a woman and her car.

Well, maybe not so ludicrous.

I was in my late twenties when I first noticed the Chrysler 300. I was at a stoplight and I thought, Wow…look at that beast. I’ve never been attracted to sporty cars. I like classy, sophisticated powerful lines. I remember hesitating when the stoplight turned green so that lovely car could pull ahead and I could identify it. A Chrysler 300. Every time I saw a 300 from that point on…I stopped and dreamed.

And the Chrysler 300 was a dream. A car I thought I could never have. A car not for the likes of me. I would never be that sort of person.

Six years ago, when I had to trade in my pick-up, I looked into Chrysler 300s on a whim. And lo and behold…it didn’t have to be a dream anymore.

I investigated two. One was newer, but didn’t have much in the way of bells and whistles. The other, though already six years old, had low mileage, and did everything but make coffee for me. And it was a Chrysler 300C Hemi – the Hemi engine is a car-lover’s holy grail. I test-drove the Hemi first. I never got into the other car. Hemi solidified around me like the bodyguard he grew to be. Heated memory seats that roll back to let me in and out in comfort, but then when I’m seated, remember to put me exactly where I like to be. Automatic everything. He kept me at a steady 78 degrees – no need to wear a winter jacket. And that Hemi engine that told everyone to get the hell out of my way.

I fell so hard in love. And I suddenly owned the car I could never have. Somehow, that allowed me to start believing that I was worth something. That I was providing something for my students that they needed. That I was writing things that people wanted to read. I can’t explain why it happened that way – why a Chrysler 300C Hemi would give me the pat on the back I could recognize and not rebuff. But Hemi did. When I was in that car, I was invincible.

Until I wasn’t. During my breast cancer, Hemi became my comfort zone. When I couldn’t sleep and it was the middle of the night and I was scared or mad or sad or absolutely convinced I was going to die, I quietly slid out of bed and went for a drive. Hemi’s seat would close around me, his engine would come to life, and my lights would turn on for me. Those lights would split through the darkness like the darkness that was within me. Oh, that bodyguard car. We could drive for miles and I could scream and cry and no one else had to hear but me and my car. I came home feeling invincible again. Until the next time. And there were many times.

On the night of October 27, we were coming home from a family wedding when a car three up from me hit a deer. The car behind him bounced off the first, and the SUV in front of me swung into the left lane. When Hemi’s headlights let me know there was a deer in the road, I had no time and no choice but to go over it. Hemi’s underside was torn apart and stuffed full of deer.

I thought I lost my beast. My bodyguard. My comfort zone. Hemi is now 12 years old and I didn’t think the insurance company would believe he was worth saving. Just like I used to believe I wasn’t worth saving.

At one point, the insurance adjuster said to me, “I don’t understand how you weren’t airborne.”

I understood. It was Hemi. He’s my bodyguard.

Hemi’s underside was so packed full of deer, he had to be put up on a lift and powerwashed before the damage could even be seen. It took three weeks before I knew the outcome. And three weeks before I saw him again.

Hemi came home yesterday. When I walked into the body shop, they had him parked under all the lights. He glowed. And I promptly made an absolute fool of myself and burst into tears.

I can’t explain my love for this car. But we all find comfort where we find comfort. When I think of all those who helped me get through this breast cancer period, I have to include my car. My bodyguard who saved me again on October 27 by refusing to leave the road when he plowed over a deer.

Welcome home, Hemi.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Hemi.

 

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