New car, 1997. Mom’s unscratched navy blue. Me? I’m eight and delighted the old red jalopy no longer exists. Sick of the ice cream cone wrappers littering that floor. This one has leather seats and I’m only slightly enthused about them. Pretty chilly in the mornings. Squeeze in the middle between Judy and Ellen. En route to 8:30 mass. Silence. Wondering if donuts will be breakfast.
Old news, 1998. A few dings on the side. I’m nine and sticky from salt water. Rubber Soul. Mom sings the words high-pitched. Wrapped in my favorite green striped towel, still wet from that one last dip. Cramped between those two again, my legs stuck to the searing seat. On the way to outdoor showers. Pleading loudly. Wanting flavored shave-ice for the road.
Kind of ugly, 2001. The break lights look weird. I’m twelve and being an asshole. Front-seat at last. Look disgusted at the mish-mashed outfit mom’s sporting. NPR. Super dull stories. Would rather daydream about sixth grade boys. Drive two minutes to best friend Hannah’s. Pretty quiet. Criticizing almost every word that comes out of my driver’s mouth. Picking at the leather with black-painted nails.
Trumped, 2003. Dad bought an unscratched gold one. I’m fourteen and just scored shotgun in the old wagon. Heading to the mall. Want a pair of sneakers to replace the colored-striped Adidas. Kiss 108. The new Outkast really got us going. Ellen’s hungry behind me. Finds Swedish Fish stash in the seat pocket in front of her. Munching like a fiend. Liking the sunshine flowing through our half-open windows.
Moved on, 2005. Spend more time in Judy’s ride these days. I’m sixteen and helping mother with the grocery venture. Center consul stained with old java. I tell tales about today’s lunch period. We’re chuckling just a little. WFNX. Violent Femmes reminding me of the old red jalopy. Last year’s guitar lessons. Spring air flows in from out. Warm puddles on pavement. Tapping fingers on the door. Thinking about getting dropped off for an iced coffee after.
Slow ride, 2006. Used to driving the six-cylinder now. I’m seventeen and behind the semi-grimy wheel. My vehicle’s in the shop. This’ll do. Rain’s flowing across the windshield. Off to Tom’s. Wanting to see if he’ll make me his girl tonight. The thing’s so slow, I just want my car with its five-disc changer. Bren’s mix. Elliott’s coming out the old speakers and I hum along. Flicking on the wipers. Smiling when they squeak.
Quiet place, 2009. The six-cylinder died in September. Mom got a zippy little thing in lieu of this. I’m twenty and taking the long way home from the parking lot Ker and Bren met me in. Insides hazy. Windows down to air them. Thumbs hold the wheel at the bottom. Hungry for anything. Mainly Tostitos and salsa though. Alone and happy. Could write about it forever. Desi’s CD. Colin’s riffs float from the dusty dash. Whispering muddled thoughts. Wanting bed sheets and an animated classic.
On its deathbed, 2010. Dings, scratches, and rust to behold. I’m twenty-one and stalled out in this shit-automatic. Six lanes of unhappy cars. In the middle. Flashers on. Cusses thrown to the wind. “Long drive”-playlist. Freedy turned down with shaky fingers. Six hours from home. Get going after ten minutes. Realizing this is the end. The scuffed seats have had enough. Ellen’s prism on the mirror could go somewhere else. I’d scooted from back to front. A moving bubble. I grew up in it. Wanting cell phone juice. Needing to think about things until I get home.
Living in a cozy corner of Somerville, MA, Linda Heartlein fills in the cracks of her days with writing. Having graduated from the University of Mary Washington in May 2011 with a B.A. in English, she takes inspiration in the tiny details she sees while traversing through post-college reality. She appeared as the featured artist of Apropos Online Literary Journal’s 2010 issue and was co-founder and editor of Dear Abby Normal Online Literary Journal in 2011.