I sold my parents’ car today.
This is long overdue. The last time it was driven was fall of 2018. It’s been sitting in a parking garage in Boston since then…waiting.
When I was little, I anthropomorphized our cars. I still remember going to the dealership with my parents when I was about 5 to buy a new car. I was so excited. I didn’t understand we would be leaving the old one behind. When we left in the new car, I was inconsolable, and my poor parents were left trying to decide whether to soothe me or convince me I was being silly.
Objects were never as important as living things, but they were important. I’m the reason our house always spent the first few months of the year as a fire hazard, because I begged my dad to keep the Christmas tree. (As an adult I have an artificial one; it was up until March this year.)
I don’t remember the last time I drove into Boston. Taking someone to a doctor’s appointment, certainly–pre-Covid, or during one of the lulls. I hadn’t been in this neighborhood since I finished emptying out their home in early 2019. My driving muscle memory held up–yes, I’m a bit of a Masshole on the highway, although I’m much better than I used to be–and I even remembered where in the garage to park to be near the good bank of elevators. Once there I had to call the management company, and I sat on the street in a sprinkle of rain, watching people go by. Restaurants–new ones–across from the garage; too new for my parents to have tried. The constant rumble of traffic under the cacophony of unintelligible voices; the smell of wet pavement mixed with the telltale tang of subway; red buildings and gray sidewalks under the mottled slate sky.
I knew this place so well once.
The car looked surprisingly good. A scratch on the front bumper, and the rear; new or old, impossible to tell. The tires weren’t flat. The key fob was dead, as was the battery, but the tow driver jumped it with no trouble. They had to bring a small tow van into the garage, because the ceilings were too low; the regular tow truck was on the street. But they checked the tire pressure, and were able to drive it up the ramp and out onto the street. (Honda. Apparently indestructible.)
I chatted with the buyer. This was an extra car for their household, where they had too many people sharing. They’d been looking for a car, but used cars are insane these days. The sale was serendipitous, certainly for me. For them? They have a close relative who is a mechanic, and was undaunted by the prospect of a car that hadn’t been moved in 3-1/2 years.
We talked about cars, and places to live, and children growing up. We didn’t talk about Covid. There were masks, here and there; I wore mine sporadically, given most of the activity was outside, and we didn’t need to be close together. We’re messing up again on Covid here, but one thing I do love about this state is never getting shit for wearing a mask. I might prefer to see more of them, but past that, having people just roll with it seems better than getting yelled at for trying not to sneeze on people.
The world is the same, even as it’s entirely different. I never know quite how to feel about that. Sometimes I get enraged. Sometimes I wonder what’s so different that we’re all so shattered. Sometimes I manage to get through my day without thinking about it much at all. Sometimes I think being an adult is, in part, recognizing that being on the brink of catastrophe is a pretty common state of existence, and we have to get shit done anyway.
On the way out of the city I drove past my old apartment, where I lived through most of the 1990s. I drove up the road where I last saw my friend Alex, gone almost eight years now; I lied to her about how well my life was going because she’d broken my heart and I couldn’t let her know. I passed the building that used to be a movie theater, where my dad would always take us an hour before the show, just to be sure we weren’t late. I saw The Unbearable Lightness of Being at that movie theater, with another friend of mine; she called it The Incredible Longness of Movie, and I will never think of that film any other way. I drove down Mass Ave, where I used to catch the bus to my job in Cambridge, and I got on the Pike via an onramp that hadn’t existed all those years ago.
The car is taken care of. One more thing off the list; another money drain removed from my parents’ life. On the Pike I started crying; not sure why. So much history in that parking garage, on those streets. So many memories of people who are changed, who are gone.
I feel the same. I know I’m not, of course; that was half my life ago. I’ve lost more, and I’ve been more disappointed. I’ve been given such gifts. I have so much of what I wanted. The world around me has not become what I’d hoped, what we’d all discussed for hours over cards and wine, at parties with cheap beer and loud music. Our influence was so much smaller than we wanted it to be, our day-to-day lives so much more overwhelming, more unmanageable.
I feel the same, and sometimes I get to the end of the day, exhausted, and wonder what I’ve accomplished. It’s never enough.
But today was concrete. Today was big, in a small way. Today I recycled a big chunk of metal. Instead of a junkyard, it’s going to a new home with people who know how to fix it, and who will use it to loosen their own tight schedules just a little bit. Today I removed one small worry from a very long list.
Tomorrow, there will be more. But that’s tomorrow.