Day 13: Something I Left Behind

expat blog challege, memoirs

Prompt: Something I left behind.

Following on yesterday’s post about my frequent bus travels and fear of driving, you may find it surprising that in the States, I was an avid driver. I was one of those people who would drive aimlessly for an hour just to relax. Out of all the many material possessions I left behind – many sold and quite a few still haunting my mom’s house – my car was the closest to me.

My first ever car was a Chevy Cavalier with a stupid “Heartbeat of America” sticker affixed that I picked up my Sophomore year in college. During my Senior year, I was T-boned going through a 4 way stop by a lunatic who never even slowed down. I luckily got out unscathed, but the Cavalier looked miserable, and as I only had liability insurance, I could never afford the thousands of dollars it cost to get it repaired properly. Still, I drove it to my first internship in Florida, but it was never the same again after the crash.

I was offered a job at the theatre where I interned, and I accepted on the condition that I could take the summer off, as I had some travel plans lined up. I went home to Georgia, and my dad decided that he didn’t care to see his gainfully (just barely) employed first born riding around in the ol’ Increasingly Unsafe at any Speed. He very generously offered to make the down payment on a new-used car for me to start my adult life with. My mom and brother were both happily driving Saturns, at that point, so off to the Saturn dealership we went. My budget was pretty small, and I narrowed it down to two cars – a sensible green sedan with no air conditioning or a sexy red sports car with manual transmission and only 18,000 miles on it. I didn’t drive a stick, so I was leaning towards the sedan (no air conditioning in Florida – what was I thinking?). My dad, however, was sold on the sports car. He told me he’d teach me to drive it, so we arranged financing, and I was the proud owner of a 1997 Saturn SC-1.

As promised, my dad taught me to drive it. Inexplicably he, a man never known for his calm nature, found stores of patience somewhere deep inside. I, however, turned into a terrible brat, struggling to master a new motor skill at age 22. Somehow we both survived – literally and figuratively – and at the end of the summer, I packed up my car and drove it back to Florida. Never one for car names, it was always just “my car.”


I detailed my decade long wanderings in my day two post, so you already know that the Saturn and I clocked many, many miles together – our big moves were from Georgia to Florida, Florida to Montana, Montana to New York, New York to Florida (twice), and Florida to Georgia.  And, we made many trips in between.


She suffered a couple of popped tires from my poor parallel parking jobs outside artist housing where I lived in Florida. Somewhere – who knows where – in Illinois, her sunroof got stuck, and I had to replace the motor with $300 I’m sure I didn’t have. She got fitted with snow tires in Montana, where I put most of my paycheck from Wal Mart into paying her off a year early. I got a parking ticket in Brooklyn when her battery died and I couldn’t move her to the other side of the street before the street sweeper came. Her brakes went bad, and the car mechanic I was briefly infatuated with fixed them for the cost of parts because he kind of liked me, too. Somewhere along the line, her roof became leaky, and every time it rained, she’d flood and then smell mildewy after. Besides being manual transmission, my car was manual pretty much everything. No power windows or locks, and the stereo had a cassette player in which I plugged one of those CD adapters into a Disc Man, and then later my 20-song iPod Shuffle.


She made long trips during big life changes, packed to the absolute rafters, always with my potted plant (a gift from my mom when I moved to college for the first time) and my big stuffed cow in the front seat. She also made shorter trips. When I desperately needed to get away from my ceaseless job, she’d take me from Sarasota to Gainesville, Georgia, where my friend Leah was still in college, overnight on a Friday to Saturday and back again on Sunday afternoon. We, along with my mom, nearly got killed when she spun out in the middle of the highway after just barely missing a deer crossing the road on our way to Iowa to visit a grad school I would decide not to go to. She spent more hours than I can count lost in New Jersey, with me cursing Jersey barriers, as I tried to find my way home to Brooklyn after Newark airport drop offs. She took me down Alligator Alley and across the state of Florida many times to visit my favorite theatre, dear friends, and someone who I was also briefly infatuated with. She drove me an hour south to Partner-in-Crime’s house most weekends for a good year, and grudgingly home on Monday mornings, as this one was much more than a brief infatuation. She drove me in the middle of the night back to Georgia when my dad died suddenly, and she was my fastest way home.


It was only a few months later that she was my final remaining large possession, and I sent her to the graceless fate of being sold to Car Max for $1,500. I wasn’t sentimental, at the time, but looking back, that was a mistake. By the time I sold her, she had over 90,000 miles on her – 78,000 of them mine, clocked over 9 years of faithful service, most of them just she and I. I knew her soul, and with all the places we saw together, the songs I belted at the top of my lungs in her, and the secret tears I saved  for my time with her, I cannot escape the belief that she knew mine, as well. It was a mistake to not honor her better at the end of our time together – the end of my 20s, my last days as an American resident for some time to come, the end of my infatuations and driftings, and the end of my days driving long stretches of highway, steering wheel in one hand, stick shift in the other, both feet on the pedals, and two eyes on all the things that lay ahead.

6 thoughts on “Day 13: Something I Left Behind

  1. Yvette Niesel

    My car was a Mazda 6 that I leased. It was my first lease. It was also the best car I’ve ever had. I returned it to the dealer and headed to the airport… sad. Sometimes I miss driving, but it’s just not the same here.

    1. C. In Oz

      No, there’s no open road to get lost on while you’re thinking and singing. At least not anywhere near Sydney, probably plenty of that in the more rural areas.

  2. Kimberly Pichardo

    I left my first ever brand-new car of my adulthood–my Jeep Grand Cherokee…it was a sad time. Fortunately, a friend helped me find it a new home and I’m sure that it was appreciated and loved just as much as I did. Same sentiment, different car….:). I miss that ride intensely!

  3. Cosette Paneque

    Awww. By the time I moved to Melbourne, my car had died. I miss having a car so much though I’m not entirely comfortable driving in Melbourne yet. Still, a car is in my (distant) future.

  4. Christie

    Perhaps you have thought of this or done it already, but it could be interesting to write the story of that period of your life through the eyes of your car. It must have known lots of fascinating things about you.

  5. Samantha

    What a beautiful story about your journey with your car. I gotta say – your dad made the right choice – that red sports car is sexy! I love how something as simple as a car – was with you through so many momentous occasions – happy & sad. She was a real testament to your life – from the moment you met her – until the moment you parted.

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