You know what cars do to you? They make you feel like life will be better with them. Before you get a car, all you can think about is how much better life will be once you get a car. You will be able to go and come as you please. You will not have to plan your schedule around your sister’s free time anymore. You will not have to leave the house two hours before you start work to catch the bus, and you would not have to spend fifteen dollars on cab fare. Oh, and you can stop receiving all those insults from Mama Nkechi. Ah, if only you had a car!
So finally, you work your butt off and you save up for a car. You had to clean up your savings account to buy your car, but you figured it was worth it. You could have bought yourself a cheap car, but you did not want to take the risk. Why buy a cheap car that will break down in the middle of the road? You decided you would rather spend the money to get yourself a reliable car that would not stop you halfway, and so you did!
As usual, everything was great at first. It drove great! Its engine came on when you put the key into the ignition and turned it a certain way. It drove when you put the gear in ‘D’, and it reversed when you put the gear in ‘R’. In your head, you did all you were told to do. You did the oil tune up every three thousand miles – just as the little sticker on your wheel screen said you should. You checked the gauge of the tire, and even learnt how to check the fluids. Inside and outside, you never kept the car dirty; in fact, some will say you were obsessed with keeping it clean. You never let it run out of gas either. You always kept it smelling good with air fresheners, and everyone who entered your car could not stop complimenting you.
Why then did it start messing up? It started with you putting the car in ‘D’ and it started reversing. And then, not only did you have a flat tire, but the tire was damaged beyond repair. How come? You had just checked that tire in the morning and you had no clue that there was something wrong with it. It seemed to have happened out of nowhere. It got to the point that the car completely refused to start. You had to have it towed to the local mechanic. Of course, that put a heavy dent in your bank account. Having spent all that you did, the car seemed to be in a good shape again.
Your friends are constantly telling you, “You don’t have to spend so much for a car to work,” but as far as you are concerned, they do not understand the kind of bond you share with your car. They have tried “hooking you up” with other cars, but you have sternly declined, stating that your car is a good car – if only they give it a chance to prove itself.
You were starting to trust it again, but it started jerking on the road. You managed it like that to the mechanic’s shop where you dished out some more money to have it fixed. You cried your eyes out and wondered if having a car was really worth it. Perhaps, you could just go back to waiting for the bus and paying fifteen dollar for the cab fare. Perhaps, you could just go back to receiving insults from Mama Nkechi. Ah, but how can you go from grace to grass? Everybody already knows you have a car. Noooo. You will be patient. Things will get better. Your car is just going through a tough time. It will come around – eventually.
Maybe it is because you have been putting the regular gas in it. From now on, you will start putting the premium gas. You will stop letting your friend’s teenage brother wash it for twenty dollars; you will start taking it to the professional car washers. For a second, you wonder if you have been putting fake antifreeze liquid into your car. Perhaps Gucci, Versace, or Prada makes antifreeze liquid for cars. Nah, you conclude that your thoughts are a bit extreme. They probably do not – at least not yet. But as soon as they do, your car will be the first to use it. Who cares if it is just a ninety-five Honda Accord?
Once again, you have to trust your car. This time, you decide to be careful. You avoid going on the highway because it will be a lot harder and more expensive to have it towed from the highway. You only drive inside the city. The car drives well and gives you no sign that something is wrong with it, or that it will collapse any time soon. But you still leave it on probation for a while. It passes the test with flying colors. Slowly but surely, it begins to gain your confidence back. You start taking it on the highway again, and it does not mess up. Great!
On this particular day, you are scheduled to go for the most important interview of your life. If you miss this interview, you will have to start everything from the beginning. What do you think your car does? Yes, it disappoints you. While on the highway, it starts smoking. You do not know what to do. What do you do? It has not stopped moving, so you could actually manage it to your destination, but what if something happens while you are driving it? You are too close to your destination to just give up and go back home; yet, you are too far from home to turn around and start the journey again. What do you do? If you keep driving it like that, the car could just combust. If that happens, both you and the car will not make it to your destination. If you turn back and go home, that means you have wasted your time.
So now you are stuck on the highway, wondering what to do, where to go, and how to go. You are in limbo – neither here nor there. You are stuck between a rock and a very, very hard place. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. You have given this man two, three, four, maybe five years of your life, and now it seems you have done it all for nothing. You have invested so much of your time and emotions into him, and you do not feel like you are yielding any profit. You have two options: you could either give up on him and start all over with someone new, or you could continue with him and damn the consequences.
The thought of starting all over repulses you; you are not young anymore. Besides, you have spent so much time ‘training’ this man. He knows your likes and dislikes. He knows you like chocolate and dislike cookies and cream flavored ice cream. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He knows your secrets. You tell him things you can never, ever tell your best friend. Everybody knows the two of you; his family has met yours. The trees have even been whispering about his possible proposal. His family has been hinting at their impending trip to your parents’ house to pluck the very ripe flower in their garden. You are more than ready to be plucked. But what happens after you have been plucked? Will you live the rest of your life being stranded on the highway by your man? How many times will your car have to stop you on the highway before you give up and decide that it is time to get yourself a new car? You just might die of heartbreak.
Men are like cars. Some days you wake up, enter your car and just drive off. You think about the days you had to freeze in the cold waiting for the bus, the days you had to take a cab, and the days you had to endure Mama Nkechi’s insults, and you cannot help but be thankful to God for giving you the car. On other days, however, when you are stranded on the highway and paying your future paycheck to the mechanic, you cannot help but wonder the point of having a car. You start wondering if you have been living in an illusion you created. Even though having a car has given you the opportunity to get a second job, you really have been spending all the money from the second job on the car, so technically, you are not better than you were before you got the car. Or are you?
Tuesday, January 29th 2008