When I was married my wife and I shared a car. We had a 2004 Honda Civic in the last 2 years of our relationship, shared between us. We really saw no reason for us both to have a car, since we were generally together. When it was clear we were breaking up it was also clear that I needed to have a car of my own, so I found another Honda Civic.
This Civic coupe was 11 years old when I got it, and in fairly good shape. With less than 100K miles on it, a sun roof, an after-market CD player and radio, and a bright red color that made me feel like I was driving a sports car. The car was a very clear symbol of new freedom and possibilities.
A few years later I was in another long-term relationship, and we were having some pretty serious money issues. Since I owned my car in full, and my girlfriend did not, we decided to sell my car and just use her’s for awhile. I sold my beloved red Civic to a friend, and went back to sharing a car and using the bus to get to work. This was frustrating to me, but a sacrifice I was able to make to keep us in our house for another month.
In the end we lost the house anyway, and I lost the girlfriend too. When we were splitting up I was once again in a situation of losing a partner and not having a car to use anymore either. This time I had the added complication of having just lost a house to foreclosure, and so my credit was shot and I was broke. For a few months I tried to get around on a moped as old as I am, but it didn’t run for more than a few days without major repairs, so that didn’t go well.
When my friend who had bought the car 9 months earlier contacted me, it was a dream come true. He said he’d decided he wanted a larger vehicle, and I could buy the car back from him with monthly payments! I didn’t need credit, I just needed to send him a check every month for a few months. I agreed immediately, and got my lovely red Civic back. I was incredibly broke for the next few months while I paid him off, leaving me without money to actually put gas in the car or buy groceries, but it was worth it.
The car was 14 years old by this time, and still running well. I soon put some money into the exhaust system, and repaired a few other things, but it wasn’t costing me a lot of money to keep it going, and that was good, because I was living on an extremely tight budget for awhile.
After that breakup it took me a long time to become comfortable with living alone, and especially with traveling alone. I had been living with partners for my whole adult life, and hadn’t had to travel more than across the city by myself in many years. In that car I faced my fears and learned how to get to Chicago, to Minneapolis, and much further on my own. Within a year I was quite comfortable doing long cross-country drives alone, to various events and jobs. I learned how to navigate, how to keep myself occupied, and how to pack enough camping gear for a long trip into the small car.
The car also allowed me to do all of those every-day tasks that need to get done. I learned how to put a car-seat in it for my boyfriend’s son. I moved out of that one-bedroom apartment in with a bunch of friends by stuffing that car full of boxes for several trips across town. I quit my job, and started commuting to school, which is a much longer distance for me. This in particular made me very happy for the extremely low gas millage on an old manual transmission Civic.
Over a year ago I started dating a woman in Chicago. The Civic was getting really old by this point, but it got me to and from my new partner consistently. It took me to events we attended together, and back and fourth on that long journey to see her. I learned how to get to Chicago from Madison without paying any tolls, and ate a lot of terrible gas station food while doing it. I started letting the car get REALLY dirty in the past year, but it kept on going. I replaced the breaks, and it passed it’s 17th birthday and 150K mark without serious issues.
Then in August I left the car parked at my boyfriend’s house while a huge group of us went camping in central Wisconsin. I rode up to camp with him, and met with my girlfriend, her girlfriend, the rest of our poly family, and a ton of friends for the big weekend.
That weekend, under a sky filled with stars and the Perceid meteor shower, my girlfriend took me out to the dark beach, lit candles, and proposed to me. It was one of the most beautiful and welcome moments of my life, and I’m incredibly happy that I said yes. We celebrated with all of our friends, embarking on our future together deep in the woods surrounded by those we love.
When I got back to Madison my old beloved Civic would not start. It sat dead in front of my boyfriend’s house until yesterday, when I could afford to have someone look at it. The mechanic gave me the sad news yesterday afternoon that my car is dead. It needs major engine repair, and is not worth salvaging. Today I went over and removed my belongings and it’s license plates. It is going to be donated tomorrow.
I bought this car not once, but TWICE when my previous live-in relationships ended. It seemed incredibly fitting that it finally ceased to function at the exact same time as I made a real commitment to the next one. I will miss that car enormously, as it was my friend and companion for so long. But I’m glad I don’t need it anymore – I’m no longer in the place in my life that I was when I got it (either time) and I don’t plan to ever be there again.
As a skeptic, I don’t believe that this happened for any reason at all, but as a romantic the symbolism and timing just makes a beautiful story. I’m okay with that.