my mother the car

itís hard to imagine how you ever held my tiny squirming body in your arms as I stare at you here up on blocks in the yard. with your loving voice and shining eyes transformed into braying horn and dim misaligned headlights. even when all seemed hopeless, when the somber accolytes of medicine passed the black ostrich feather across your face and chanted over your last breath, I held forth hope for your return and triumph. you who gave me life and strength and nurtured my every moment could never die. it was unthinkable.

such is the unreason of love that the circle remain unbroken. as your own organs failed, the dutiful priests removed and enshrined them, leaving gleaming machines in their place. the soft fall of your breath became the rhythmic hum of tubes and compressors. the miles of tubing extending from your body made you seem the fat prize of some horribly large and methodical spider. and the pale rainbow of fluids flowing through them made it seem as though the strain of your battle for life was turning you inside out.

I should have recognized in this gradual mechanical transformation a cipher of what was to come. the slow inevitable procession of change where living matter changes form and becomes barely recognizable as a once-living thing. as your body became more inanimate and the glow in your eyes dimmed, your spirit slipped away following some dark passage of escape like a frightened child running through tall dark grass.

funny that I began life aware only of your warm encirling arms and calming voice and have lived to see you reduced to a mountain of dead matter and accumulated junk. the stale smell of sickness and mouldering food in your apartment. your closets overflowing with a lifetime of clothing and memories. but it was your old car, symbol of your independent spirit which came to shelter your fugitive soul. driving it home one night after cleaning out your apartment, I felt your presence. not as some talking sitcom absurdity where we could commiserate and laugh about your new predicament, but as a series of odd comforting sensations. unlike your apartment, the car still retained the sweet scent of your cosmetics and perfume. I thought I heard the sound of your labored breathing within the curtain of road noise, and several times thought I glimpsed your figure sitting beside me in the dark. and while I never actually saw you, I began to believe that somehow you had taken refuge in the old car.

so I became loath to sell you. the old car haunted by your ghost. you were of no use to me as transportation, so there you sat rusting in my yard. my daughter played in you imagining that she and grammy were going on a trip together. even I would visit you on occasion and sit in the driverís seat hoping to once again feel you close. even after your tires went flat and your engine no longer started, it gave me comfort just to see you there. ridiculous, but just the sort of hollow triumph of life over death youíd expect from this world where millions live and die with no one to grieve for them. our possessions carry our memories and our memories become our only real possessions. I remember kissing you good-bye in your casket and touching your hand. your smooth cold flesh felt like the metal and glass of your old junk car. sculpted and hollow. a decaying container for all that was ever of value to me.

[Writers] [Birdhouse]