I’m not sure how to end this.
I want to take the empty plastic key and set it down on the kitchen counter and turn around, get in the car, and drive the hundred miles to my apartment. I want to turn the engine off one last time, close the sunroof, pop the CDs out of the disc changer in the trunk. I want to know why we hold onto something so inhuman like it has a heartbeat.
Nobody can tell me.
Nobody can understand why handing in your first car, turning it over when you’ve sat inside for the last 15 years, can feel like the end of a chapter.
It’s just a car. It’s not like you’ve been driving it that long. It’s not like it was ever really yours, legally, until June when you finally signed some papers and took ownership.
Maybe not. Maybe it’s just because it was the first time.
It was the first time BMW became a household name. The first time my sister and I learned to stop eating in the backseat. The first time I looked out the backseat window and caught a glimpse, in the haze of a late-summer night, of a hot air balloon floating through the fields, the treeline crackling our view of it.
It was the first time, the second, third and fourth time, I kissed death’s forehead and prayed it wasn’t all over.
I have been mildly terrified, since the year I became a teenager, of driving in the winter weather. Of losing control of my grip on the road. Of spinning wildly into the other side of the road—or worse, flipping end-over-end.
Someone, a boy, once told me that if the airbag ever went off, I would die on impact. That’s how close I had to sit to the steering wheel.
Two years ago, a week shy of Thanksgiving, I felt the give, the woosh of losing my grip on something, as I spun backwards and came to a stop in the median of a major highway.
The car holds 50,000 miles of mine. It has seen my first kiss, my last kiss, the missed curfew and the diner parking lot.
For six or so years, I have immediately rattled off the mileage like a caveat, like even though I was driving around the Ultimate Driving Machine, it was really old. Really driven. Really holding the memories of 225,000 miles between the grooves of its tires.
Really holding my midnight anxieties, the silent drives in a southern town, the Taylor Swift songs on sunny April afternoons.
And I’m not quite sure how to tell it, “Ok, thanks. I’ll take it from here.”
I’ll take it from here. I’ll take it from this place it has only just gotten to know. I’ll leave it somewhere it has always calibrated its tires to, the place it missed deeply and irrevocably on weeks when it was sitting in a parking deck, hundreds of miles away, wanting to idle in that driveway.
It’s what you do when it’s time to say Goodbye. You turn over the keys, bring it back to its home, and leave it there.