Our car—our little-sedan-that-could—broke down last month. Its transmission went gently into that good night. Yes, it seems our green Chevy Impala finally uttered those three fateful words: “I can’t even.” Requiscat in pace.
Such things happen, and they often seem to come out of nowhere. In this case, our car rode off into the sunset (by which I mean it died out in the middle of a particularly busy intersection). A Facebook status from Charis tells of the finer details in this story:
“One of those days where your car dies while you’re driving in the city with your kids and the man on the corner holding a pizza sign pushes you off the main road and then prays over you for a very long time while your 3-year-old whimpers in the backseat because he wants to keep driving to school because he misses his friends, and the pizza man finally says ‘Amen’ and you call the tow truck and your husband, even though it is the busiest day of his semester and he borrows a car from a classmate and when he arrives you take your grumpy, confused, tired children home and realize you left your apartment keys with your husband so you drag your kids to the main office and borrow a pair of keys, and meanwhile your husband finds out that your car isn’t worth saving so now you have no car, so you go about renting a car while you look to buy another car and then you realize you were more emotionally attached to your beat-up old car than you thought because it brought both of your children home from the hospital when they were born and so you cry for a bit, and then your husband has to walk to the car rental place and get the rental car, and then he has to leave because it’s still the busiest day of his semester after all. You know, one of those days.”
This post, this eulogy for the auto-kind, comes a few months after this blog’s theme on things, but the status update above rehashes some of the ideas explored during our encounter with thinginess. The academic Bill Brown, whose essay “Thing Theory” inspired this group’s topic, suggests in his article that what makes a thing “thingy” is something of an elusive excess: “You could image things,” he writes, “as what is excessive in objects, as what exceeds their mere materialization as objects or their mere utilization as objects—their force as a sensuous presence or as a metaphysical presence…” (5). The day the car died, it became easier to see—in that time of little inconveniences—what so often escaped from the car when it ran smoothly in its object-ness. For Charis and me, the personal attachments and memories and psychological residue spattered that little car. What looked like only droplets bouncing back towards us became a deluge. It submerged us in reflections of the car’s reliability in spite of the grime it saw as a family vehicle towing little kids around and—perhaps with a little dose of poetic justice—its last act of treachery.
Et tu, Chevy?
Really, though, I shouldn’t have been surprised: that pesky “check engine” light blinked its last, as if spelling out in Morse code that apocryphal headstone adieu, “I told you I was sick.”
P.S. Three cheers for Good Guy Pizza Man.
Jacob Schepers (Calvin ’12) is the author of A Bundle of Careful Compromises (2014), a winner of the 2013 Outriders Poetry Project competition. His poetry has appeared in Verse, The Common, PANK, The Destroyer, and others. He lives in South Bend, IN, with his wife, Charis, and two sons, Liam and Oliver. He is both an MFA student and doctoral candidate in English at the University of Notre Dame.