Earlier this month, I said goodbye to a dear friend. After nearly 11 years, my old Ford Focus started showing his age. He creaked when I turned the wheel, squealed when I cranked the ignition. One day he gave up as I hit 70 on the highway. I guided him to an exit, and he shuddered in resignation.
It was time to get a new car.
I was 22 when I bought the Focus. Sept. 11 had just happened. My first significant relationship had just come to an end. I’d taken a job in Kansas and needed a way to get there from Minnesota. Focus was pretty. He gleamed on the showroom floor. I took out a 36-month loan and made him mine.
Oh, what a ride it was.
Focus took me over the flat highways of Kansas, through the icy roads of a Michigan winter, up and down the hills of Cincinnati. After I was laid off, he gingerly carried me to Columbus. He never faltered, even when he took a beating, and he took a lot of beatings. One hundred cigarettes were smoked in Focus. Twice, someone threw up inside of him. More than once he charged down the freeway with an unsteady, sobbing driver behind the wheel.
Giving up Focus was giving up a million memories of road trips to the Outer Banks and job changes and first dates and last dates and all the sadness and drama of a woman in her 20s. I slept in Focus, a few times, one time nestled in the back seat beside a man dressed like a hot dog.
I didn’t treat him well. I let stains sit. As I chased one newspaper story after another, I let the garbage pile up. Once I left an unopened Dr. Pepper sitting in the cup holder, and as the sun beat through the windows the can exploded inside of Focus like a sticky grenade.
When I cleaned it for the last time, I found a bikini top of my sister’s. I found my Michigan license plate. I found a book of drink recipes given to me by an ex-boyfriend. I found a picture of the man in the hot dog costume.
And then I gave it away. I forgot to look back. After 11 years, Focus had become a burden, a threat, something I’d grown to disdain. I drove off the lot in my new Honda Civic without so much as a goodbye honk.