I write several hours after becoming the distinctly un-proud owner of a car much bigger, nicer, and in better shape than I want or deserve. I have long been a smug reverse car snob, defending my 1990 Acura Integra against all who would point to its alarming dents and rust; who would be stunned into silence when they got in after waving away my cheerful disclaimers that it was a combination locker room and newsstand, and then pray for the trip to end soon; or simply say straight out, as my brother did after a trip from Maine to Boston, "You have the single most uncomfortable car I have ever driven in."
Yet I loved it with irrational devotion, and with the sort of constant, necessary, and very expensive maintenance that my trusty Jamaica Plain garage assured me was, in fact, rational. (Boston is not the land of good or careful drivers; it makes no sense to have a good car here.) Neither slow nor sleet nor a notoriously steep length of I-84 I later learned was called Heartbreak Hill could fell it.
Until a violent cloudburst last Saturday, when I rode to the rescue of my extremely wet spouse, whom I'd left at our regular Saturday afternoon stop for Clear Flour Bread. A single attempt to restart my car after it stalled in a sudden, unseen torrent was enough to wreck my engine forever. Or so I learned after a day of trying to dry out the car in a helpfully baking sun. The AAA tow-truck driver, hearing the same single angry click I had heard when I tried to start the car every few hours, looked up at me with the gravity of a doctor called to the scene too late. "I'm sorry," he said.
I had no time to perform the ceremony I wished to before it was carted to the glue factory—I was teaching all week at the Columbia Publishing Course—but I certainly wished for one appropriate to losing a part of oneself. (Here's a picture of a similar Acura; you'll have to imagine character-giving dents, and the jauntily elegant wire hanger bent into a perfect diamond shape that served as the antenna.)