I don’t drive a lot — less than 150,000 miles in 42 years — but still, a car is important to me. Our society is set up where a vehicle is essential to go the long distances our daily lives seem to require. It’s a way of carrying all the food and equipment we need, a way to keep in touch with far-flung families and friends, a way of extending our reach and renewing the views forming the backdrop of our lives. But even more than that, a car spells freedom.
My car conked out the other night (actually, it was the fuel pump that conked out), and so I’ve been without transportation, having to rely on friends to get me and my father to his various appointments and to round up the medications he needs. I’ve been without a car before when it’s been in the shop, sometimes for several days, and I used to revel in the freedom of not having to care for such a large and needy object. Often I would go weeks without driving since I prefer traveling on foot when possible. But today, I’ve been antsy, waiting for the mechanics to call and tell me the car is fixed.
Even though I might not have driven today since my father needs me here, I feel trapped not having the car around in case I felt the urge to escape my life for just a few minutes. A car is a promise that we can go farther and faster than ever our feet could carry us. It’s a promise that life awaits beyond the confines of our responsibilities. It’s a promise of adventure, fun, freedom.
The irony of this situation is that I’ve been thinking about walking up the coast to Seattle, a trip that might take me a year, and the thought of not having to deal with a car and whatever mechanical and maintenance issues that might arise on a long trip has been refreshing. And here I am fretting over the absence of my car. (I know I’m overusing the word “car,” but it’s too old and bedraggled to merit the appellation of “vehicle.”)
So here I wait.
Is that the phone I hear? No, just my imagination calling me.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.