i never thought i'd be a person, who cared about cars. and, in fact, i'm not. they are all the same to me. i couldn't tell a corolla from a camry or a lexus from lamborghini (seriously).
but over the course of the last 16 years, i did fall in love with one particular car.
her name is pearl. pearl was a 2001 toyota tacoma my dad came home with one random weekday during my junior year of high school. my dad, ever the bmw advocate and owner, had brought home this little toy of a car with hand crank windows, a tape deck, and a hysterically oversimplified dashboard. she went and she stopped, and that was about it.
at some point during my san francisco times, pearl became mine. my dad, ever the advocate and owner, also, of relentless generosity, gifted me pearl.
and boy did we have times together. we went to work, to the mountains, to santa barbara again and again, to the beach. we went on dates, we went on emotional roller coasters and those of the san francisco hills. we went on road trips and camping trips. we went everywhere. on those rare warm san francisco nights, i'd sit in pearl's bed and eat popsicles. once, i woke up and she had a giant stuffed blue dog just sitting in her bed.
everyone loved pearl. not just because she would move that abandoned san francisco street couch or haul a bunch of groceries, not just because she played amy grant and tlc tapes straight from the 90s, not just because she was a ride for most people who didn't have their own cars, but because she was just everything. she was bare bones, trusty, scrappy, slow and steady. she went and she went. she deteriorated in looks over the years-- paint scraped off, dents multiplied like acne scars on a teenager, her speakers all but gave up. but her engine was strong and that was all that mattered.
i began to feel that pearl was reflection of me. she was kind of mess, not overly impressive in skill, but she was solid. she was reliable. she was a quiet beast. she was everything, despite herself. something about her just made people love her.
in 2014, we made the big trip across the country from california to kentucky. no one thought pearl would make it. sometimes we only went 30 miles an hour up those hills, but she kept on plugging along. she was the little engine that could, carrying my thrilled and terrified body across mountains, across states, across chasms of fear, to a new life.
3 years later, 2 and a partial winters later, after pearl got her kentucky footing, her first exposure to inclement weather and midwest/ southern living, on january 5th of this year, we set out for school during the first real snow of the year.
i was talking to my mom on the phone at the time, commenting on how the snow looked like tiny rivers, snaking and winding across the highway. it hadn't quite settled yet, but it also wasn't ready to dissipate. i was going slow and steady, and then, in a millisecond, i lost traction. i spun into a semi truck to my left, and then circled across three lanes of traffic to the railing against a hill on the other side of the highway.
at first i was in shock.
then i cried hysterically for a moment.
and then i went into a deep, eerie stillness.
i was fine.
i was fine and not fine.
i have some minor injuries. i am stiff and slow and anxious. my left shoulder isn't quite right, and my head feels heavy on my neck. but this is not about that. this is about pearl and my feeling that, somehow, weirdly, truly, she has been my guardian angel since i met her.
the accident was incredible in two ways:
1. in hitting something as huge as a semi, i did not injure anyone else.
2. while crossing three lanes of traffic during rush hour, no one else hit me as i spun across the highway.
and that, i believe, is a miracle. it is divine protection. it is the grace of pearl or fate or god or buddha or whatever you believe in.
i was in my cocoon. i was safe. those manual windows and silly dashboard and tape deck were my armor.
pearl is totaled.
after all the adrenaline wore off, after the stiffness settled in, i cried and cried, hysterical, reckless, heaving tears. i cried because it was scary in so many ways, because i am profoundly grateful to be okay, and so much, so much because i am saying goodbye to my girl.
i never thought i'd be a person, who cared about cars. and in fact, i'm not. but one little car, named pearl, worked her way into my heart, carried me through so much, and, ultimately, saved my life.
she has been my own traveling, metal giving tree.
and now she is gone.
i will miss her more than i can ever express.
thank you pearl, for saving me and
for the journey of a lifetime together.