Last night, Mom and I drove to North Manchester to clean out the Honda. I wanted her to come along so that we could make a thing of it. I wanted moral support, for someone to continue to tell me that I was doing the right thing. That it was okay for the Honda to go, for that chapter of my life to close. I wanted peace of mind, and I didn't want to end my evening hugging the water-stained driver's seat of my sad little car, unwilling to say goodbye.
But, as with most things pertaining to the Honda, things did not work out as planned.
In a totally related manner, I am covered from head to toe with at least twenty mosquito bites. My ear itches.
The Honda was next-door to my car guy's house, which is where he used to fix cars before he got the place next to Dairy Queen. Apparently, Next Door Guy does serious engine repair, like putting in a new one (almost what the Honda needs). I drove my shiny "new" car to my car guy's, never once seeing the Honda. But I did see a super-long lane, and I thought that might be the turn he warned me about.
I turned around at Timbercrest. Then, we tried the lane. We drove, and drove, and passed all the other houses and then their backyards, and kept going, and going, and the fields behind the other houses, and kept going, and going, and going, and then the lane turned, and we kept going, and going, and going, and then we saw a house. We got closer, closer, closer, and we saw the Honda, and then we saw three signs.
The first sign said, "Beware of Dog."
The second sign said, "Beware of Dog."
The third sign said--you guessed it--"Beware of Dog."
And there were at least five of them. Plus puppies, in a little enclosure. Dogs, circling the car, barking madly. There were tall dogs, short dogs, fat dogs, recently pregnant dogs. One dog even had blue eyes. And not a single one of them wanted us there.
So we sat in the car. And while we sat, I noticed something.
It wasn't how shabby the Honda looked now that I've a different car. It wasn't how freaky the dogs were acting, or how horrific it was to be that far from humanity, in a scene cut from that movie, Deliverance. It was the air around the car.
And it was an unusual spectacle, the air. It seemed to shimmer, almost boiling with insects.
I spotted several different species. But all were mosquitoes. Landing on the car, buzzing around, flying through the air, all trying to get in, or so it seemed.
I should have turned around right then.
But that was when the home-owner came out. He was set upon by the hordes of mosquitoes, they descended upon him. I was surprised he was able to walk. I was surprised he had not yet succumed to fatal anemia.
He called off the dogs. We left the car.
And that was when they hit us. We could not slap hard enough, fast enough, to get them all. They bit our arms, our heads, our faces, our legs, our knees, our ankles, our hands.
I popped the Honda's trunk and lept inside the car while Mom heaved the contents of the trunk into the trunk of the Taurus indiscriminately. Gone was our plan to neatly sort out what should be kept, what should be thrown away. It vanished with the coming plague.
At least ten mosquitoes were trapped in the car with me. I killed as many as I could, smashing them against the windows of the car, against my hands. I killed one on the dashboard. There was death all over the inside of that car. Death everywhere. And I felt nothing. Only the thrill that comes with one's flight instinct.
I grabbed my garage door opener, my Harry Potter wand/pen, some yarn, some CDs. I ripped the CD player out and put in the old tape deck (no one cared), and I kept slamming the doors after Mom threw them open and left them that way. I wanted no more mosquitoes to be left in.
Finally, we decided it was time to retreat. I didn't check to make sure we had everything. I assumed the car guys would call. We lept into the Taurus and drove as quickly as we could down the rough-graveled road, killing the remaining mosquitoes as we went.
When we reached the main road, we started talking.
"That place was the mouth of Hell," I proclaimed, slapping the bugs. "You saw the incubi--I bet the dogs were Hell Hounds."
"All those dogs," Mom shook her head. "And they couldn't afford to have them fixed."
"Those mosquitoes gave us malaria. They gave us West Nile and SARS and Yellow Fever. It's no wonder Indiana was a hot spot for blood borne diseases before people knew mosquitoes carried them. That place was Hell on Earth."
"How can those people stand it?"
"And they must be breeding somewhere...doesn't anyone ever think of throwing fill dirt into a pool of stagnant water? That place is evil."
"I should have made you turn around when the lane was that long."
"I should have had the car guys bring the Honda to the dealership place."
Then I looked at my mother. She was pale, the horror of what we had just been through had shocked her. I remembered England, collapsing in youth hostels with her, getting lost in Canterbury; I remembered Canterbury West, the train station...and all that we saw there (smelled there). I remembered the prostitute outside Paddington Station in London, who had begged a passing man for cigarrettes so long that he threw her a pack of them. She caught them, pulled one out, ripped off the filter and then smoked it, still calling after him. For something else.
The things, I thought, that happen to the two of us when we're together...
"Mom?" I said. "Feel like some ice cream?"
We killed mosquitoes all the way to Dairy Queen. Then we ordered, sat down, and let the shock wear off. And the bites began to swell. I was so sure we had malaria, or at least West Nile, by then. But I didn't tell Mom. She looked like she'd been through enough.
We started to laugh about it. That's what always follows for us. The laughter.
"I pulled out the ashtray," I said. I keep change in the--kept change in the Honda's ashtray. "And I wanted to put it somewhere, but there wasn't anywhere. So I dumped it in the Taurus' trunk. I'm going to have pennies in there for the rest of the time I have that car. Seriously."
"I was just hurling things in there," Mom replied. "I don't even know what you had."
"Coats," I mused. "Lots of coats. And some Dr. Who books someone gave me because they felt bad throwing them away."
"What will you do with those?"
"Throw them away."
We drove home. And on the way, I heard that Dirty Dancing song that Patrick Swayze sang.
Mom and I then discussed his illness, that type of cancer, and its prognosis. We both knew how bad it could be, how bad it can be, how bad it was for people we'd known of before. I told Mom that he'd been fighting it for a long time, and that was out of the ordinary. But, I mentioned, he didn't look at all well. We discussed it for some time. Then we talked about Kanye West and what it means to be a jerk.
When I went home, I fell asleep and dreamed of making Interlibrary Loan Requests, getting the books (they were for me) and then forgetting about them, finally finding they were terribly overdue.
Today, I learned that Patrick Swayze has died. Kanye West's debacle was on the front page of the newspaper. I also made some ILL requests.
So...that's pretty freaky. And it isn't the first time something like that has happened. I mean, it's hindsight bias for sure. But it's hard to ignore standing up and saying to my family, "The phone is about to ring." And then hearing the phone ring.
On that note, I will say goodbye to my dear, departed, fuel-efficient Honda. Oh, glorious Honda. I spent so little on you, and you gave me so much. So many trips to Walmart, so many visits to LYSs, so many classes, so many spilled drinks. I remember the time you dropped your muffler on my graduation day, in celebration. I thought my friends had tied cans to my bumper. But no, it was you. Showing your love to me.
I remember the day the deer lept onto your hood, kicking the windshield in on my face. Your engine kept going, without any problems. I fixed the windshield, and you kept on going.
And we were together, for ages. For so many years...it was fantastic...wonderful. And I will miss you. Even though I know it was time to say goodbye. I will miss you.
Thank you, for staying with me, for keeping it together just long enough for me to be able to change to a new car. You held on. And you could have given in. Everyone expected you to. But I knew better. I know better.
Goodbye, Honda. Peace be with you.