by Maureen Aitken
When I was in college, I used to drive my grandfather’s Impala, which he gave to my uncle, who eventually sold it to me for a couple of hundred dollars, because he was cheap.
It had a murky brown exterior, with scrapes, and a dented bumper. The seats smelled in the summer. In college, I circled the blocks for 20 minutes looking for that one spot big enough to fit. How big was it? Well, one time, I put a ladder in the back seat and closed both doors. I drove six friends down to a dance club. Under Reagan, broke as I was, I looked in the backseat and said, if I put some curtains up, I could live here.
One time a Chevette hit it. The car collapsed like a paper box underfoot. My car had a scratch. I used to drive around town, and if someone tried to cut me off, I’d say, “Dare you, motherfucker.”
What did I care? That kind of freedom doesn’t come twice.
It got me to my first job in Kalamazoo. A coworker said I should buy a new car, and when the transmission started to go, a neighbor down the street bought it, fixed the problem, and afterward I saw my Impala in his driveway, or on the road, where I would sometimes look to see if it was me behind the wheel. I moved three years later.
I like to think it’s still out there, somebody’s hooptie, or a planter in an urban farm, with daisies growing from where there once was a hood, and sunflowers reaching out from what used to be windows, tipping toward the sun.
And my bare feet up on the dash, the rest of me hidden in a forest of leaves and stems, in what used to be my life.
Maureen Aitken’s short-story collection, The Patron Saint of Lost Girls, won the Nilsen Prize, the Foreword Review INDIE Prize (Top Prize for General Fiction), and was listed as one of the Kirkus Best Indie Books of the Year. The collection also received a Kirkus Star and a Foreword Star. Her stories have been widely published and twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She grew up in Detroit and teaches writing at the University of Minnesota.