Thursday. I'm driving on a busy street when I begin to feel a shake from the front of my car. It feels like a flat tire. I stop to check it out. All tires are present and full of air, nothing is dragging underneath, nothing is awry under the hood. I return to the car and pray that I make it back to the store.
It does not make it back to the store.
The vibration begins immediately. In the back of my mind, I'm thinking: Is this the end? Since I'm not well-versed in vehicular snafus, I grip the steering wheel and beg the car to survive two more miles. But soon, the shaking intensifies, and quickly, and suddenly I come to a dragging, grinding, screeching halt, leaning forward and to the left. Cars lean forward and to the left when a wheel comes off.
And sure enough, I see the emancipated wheel, keeping all of its momentum upon liberation from the weighty car, rolling and bouncing across the street, through a suspiciously large gap in traffic. It jumps the curb, rolls up a driveway, and barges through some poor homeowner's screen door.
I will have to deal with that later. For now, I'm sitting in traffic, near rush hour, at a busy intersection. On three wheels. I get out, inspect the damage, and pop a squat in the grass by the street.
I call work. I'm outta commission for... at least an hour, I say. I call dad and hurriedly, anxiously explain the scenario as best I understand it. Soon, an old friend rolls up and helps find the lug nuts. A cop pulls up behind me and we fill out an accident report. We inspect the damage at the house and retrieve the wheel. No one lives there, the cop tells me. Abandoned. Foreclosed. Thank God.
A wrecker comes, dad comes, the boss comes, and we agree that all of this came about because the lug nuts weren't tight enough after the new tires I got on Saturday. The wrecker charges $20 to put the wheel back on. The car is good enough to drive back home, so dad takes it and I finish the shift in his truck.
Saturday, I drive the car again, the wheels polished and brushed up by the tire dealer. They did their best to make things right. But by 11, a strange noise is coming from under the hood, and the bitter smell of burning rubber. My AC compressor, I later discover, is seizing up and has an appetite for serpentine belts. When I drive it home later, tense because it's loud, I hear the belt snap in the driveway, and rubber-smelling smoke pours from under the hood when I get out.
Sunday morning when I get up, I look for a new car.
Sunday afternoon, Dad and I replace the belt. When we go to buy a new belt, an old friend is there who offers to look at the car later in the week. It takes four hours for dad and I to replace the belt because we can't get to the darn thing and we don't have hands the size of a three-year-old girl. Another friend stops by to help us, and this is when I discover it's the AC compressor, and it's hungry for another belt, at least until it's replaced.
Monday, the old friend we saw when we were buying the belt offers to buy the car for $700. I'm not sure what I could get for a maybe-running car with some real issues, but he knows how to fix cars and I agree to the price, because it'll be in good hands. A few days later, he comes to get it, and swaps out the AC compressor with one from the junkyard. He slips on the new belt in five minutes, roughly three hours and 55 minutes faster than Dad and I did it.
I sign over the title, find the keys, and drive it to his house and say a strange, brief good-bye.
It patiently taught me to drive it's stick shift, suffered through that long drive to Florida after its air conditioning gave out, rolled over the 200,000 milestone a few weeks ago.
It's weird to get attached to something. You ascribe a personality to it. I never named it, nothing seemed right, but I did like it. When I paid it off, it was mine, and I had pride in it even though it never really fit me. Little red car, no head room... just didn't seem right for me.
But it was. Every time I drove, and that was often, it was there with me. Everywhere that I would go, the Escort would surely follow. It felt so wrong leaving it in Florida when I flew home for a week. We adapted to each other, conformed to each other. It was truly my space.
And now it's not my car anymore.
But I've got a new one.