The Truth About Caroline: Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend
As happy as I was (and still am) with the purchase of my new-to-me Chevrolet Sonic LTZ, there was still an unpleasant task that had to be done. A couple of weeks ago, I grabbed three trash bags and a set of old, faded black plastic keys as I left my apartment and made my way outside to clean out my 2005 Mazda6 for the last time.
As I unlocked her (which was rare—the poor girl sat unlocked more often than not through her tenure with me), unexpectedly, a virtual highlight reel of memories began to flash rapidly through my mind. I delayed the inevitable task of cleaning her, preferring to sit in the driver’s seat and well upon the past, remembering each and every step of our partnership as if it was yesterday. She was my first real, “adult” car—not to be confused with the beaters that most parents give their raging teenage offspring before trusting them to drive anything remotely current or hip whatsoever. Before she entered my life, I didn’t really have much of an opinion when it came to cars. I just drove the car that had been graciously given to me by my parents because, well, it was free.
Back in 2008, I spent months and months narrowing down my final choice among the mid-sized sedan contenders. Of course, being an irrational automotive enthusiast, I ignored the plain-jane Accords and Camrys, and, as you might have guessed, the Mazda6 rose to the top of my list.
She was so resiliently shiny and magnificently red the first time I laid eyes on her; not a candy color but, a deep, rosy red. At the very start, I knew we were a perfect fit. There was no doubt in my mind; she was mine and I was hers. I jumped in the front seat, put the long slender key in the ignition and started that baby up! It didn’t take me long to decide on a name that fit. In fact, it seemed like she chose to call herself Roxanne.
Roxy and I were inseparable from day one and, as I began the task of preparing her to be sold, it certainly showed. I found myself wishing I had taken better care of my girl. The front of the hood was dented upward due to my most recent (yes, there were more than one) fender bender with an older Jeep Cherokee. The grill was a lost cause and had been taken out after that incident—she looked like a very confused Shelby GT500. You could see the paint beginning to chip away from several places. I was embarrassed by her appearance. At the end of our time together, I did not like to be seen driving her anymore due to the cosmetic damage she endured, or more appropriately, that I had made her endure. I felt like I had betrayed her. In that moment, I wished for the last three months back, wanting to relive the time I took for granted. I know it sounds silly, but…I bonded with that car.
Never in a million years had I imagined feeling more strongly about losing a car than I would feel about getting a new one. On the one, obvious hand, I had a new frickin’ car! Amaze-balls! Yet, on the other hand the amount of sorrow and remorse I had was so overwhelming it suppressed my excitement.
Nevertheless, every partnership comes to an end one way or another. The time had come for me to say farewell to Roxy. An incredible feeling of heartbreak came over me when I realized this would be my last few hours with her. We had spent seven long years with one another. Some might say the years I spent with her could easily have been the most defining years in my young adult life. This car was with me while I grew and flourished into a fine young woman (debatable, I suppose).
I began to clean out my entire being from Roxanne. The goal was to make it look as if I had never been a part of this car. Unfortunately, this proved improbable and, ultimately, impossible. I popped her trunk and began to look around her cluttered, disheveled self. She was like a long hidden treasure, containing numerous bits and pieces of my life. In fact, this car was exactly that: a significant piece of Caroline.
Enough procrastinating. I reached in and pulled out a book that was missing the cover. I opened to the first page: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I thought back, trying to remember when I read it; it all seemed so long ago. Then I found a red, one-piece swimsuit and it all came back to me: It was the summer of 2008. I worked as a lifeguard at a local country club. It was shortly after I had moved to South Carolina, and I was ecstatic to be in a new place and to be close to family. Seeing that book and that swimsuit took me back to the emotions I felt when I first put on that swimsuit. I briefly considered trying it on to see if it still fit, then considered how I might feel if it didn’t, and moved on.
Next, I pulled out a worn, manila envelope. I could tell it had endured some significant weather damage. Once I was able to pry it open, I saw two NCAA basketball ticket stubs. These ticket stubs were to the 2009 NCAA Tournament. I remembered this game vividly. Michigan State and UNC were in the championship game. UNC had a steady lead the whole game but that wasn’t enough to make me comfortable. What can I say…I’m a Southern gal. I like my sports. I love my teams and, on occasion, I can take it a little too seriously. This game wasn’t any different. I was a hot mess…unfortunately, I had made Roxy a hot mess, too, over the years. I smoked in her. I slept in her. I abused her. I wished I hadn’t.
Next, I came across a blue plastic bag. When I looked inside to discover the contents I couldn’t have been more repulsed. It was full of my abusive ex-boyfriend’s things. Rather than spend any more time on this regrettable period in my life, I immediately set the plastic bag with the rest of the trash that was accumulating outside of good ol’ Roxy. Breakups aren’t easy on anyone and Roxy was my saving grace during that part of my life. I would take her out and drive for hours just listening to my music, being alone with my musical muses, my thoughts, and my emotions. Sadness. Happiness. Anger. Fear. I was free to be me, just me.
She gave me the strength I needed to conquer the uncertainty and doubt I experienced during that tumultuous time. She gave me the ability to just let go and liberate myself from him, both physically and emotionally. When I didn’t have anywhere else to go, I had Roxy. I have had many life-altering changes and moments of clarity, just by getting behind the wheel of my trusty Mazda6 and hitting the road until life makes sense again. I silently thanked her for that.
It was almost as if Roxanne knew I needed a pick-me-up at that moment, because she gave me a gift in my next discovery. It was a quart-sized ziplock bag, and inside were five parking tickets. I pulled one from the clear bag and saw the date: November 19, 2012. This was the night that my girlfriends took me out and helped me reclaim my freedom after the pain from my ex-boyfriend. Although most people wouldn’t consider a parking ticket a happy memory, this one definitely was. I remembered that they cared enough to help pull me out of that dark place, and the fun we had that night. I remembered coming back to my car to find that parking ticket and laughing it off, thinking that the expense was well worth it.
I finished cleaning her up and making her as presentable as I could. Roxy still had a bit of life left in her, with about 150k miles on the clock. I knew that she would be able to provide even more memories to her next owner, who would probably be somebody a lot like I was at some of those low moments—somebody without a lot of money to spare on a car, but somebody who desperately needed one. Part of me was glad that I would be handing her over, indirectly, to somebody that Roxy would have the chance to take care of, the way she took care of me all those years.
If Roxy could talk, she’d probably tell my new car, Tails, that I wasn’t so good at taking care of my car or keeping it clean, but that I loved her. Roxy was there for some of the lows and the highs, and I’m sure Tails will see his share of both, too. The miles we racked up together were many, but I’m coming out of it a stronger, more sensible, more worldly woman.
Thank you for the memories, Roxy. But all the memories, good and bad, went in the trash that day. Much better to live through the windshield of my new car than in the trunk of my old one.
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Good article Caroline! I enjoyed it.
I felt much the same last year when I had to bid adieu to my '97 Volvo 850. Some cars come and go, but others... don't.