The old Lincoln rocketed off into the night, a tiny Korean lady behind the wheel. I knew at once she would be a force of nature.
And so ended a blind date at the Eureka Inn, my first with Nina, arranged by match-maker Margie Dart of Arcata. She had charged me two bucks for Nina’s name and number, and for that I had bought an hour’s rapture in the Palm Lounge, two awkward people groping for romance.
I had promised to call Nina again. Who wouldn’t call a stunning beauty like that? And then she was gone, her Lincoln roaring off into the night. Twenty years with her passed just as quickly.
She loved Lincolns. She insisted on one to take her care home residents to their medical appointments. “They deserved comfort,” she would say. And no other car would do. She also rarely drove it out of the city. So the consequence was an armored personnel carrier with low mileage.
She had just bought a new Lincoln, raven black with satellite tracking and in-dash video. But the old silver Town Car stayed. Old habits and old Lincolns never die. If only that were true of the people we love.
I still drive it, though it is clearly too big for me. I sideswipe and back into things. The turning signal and tail-lights are gone, thanks to separate collisions with immovable objects. And a dark crease runs from stem to stern from an ill-fated attempt to double-park. I am not an accident waiting to happen. I am the accident.
It also shows signs of age. The passenger side door won’t open and the driver’s side won’t close. It is losing oil and a warning tone tells me that it is out of fuel. Maybe that is because I have not filled the tank in months. It is its own ambulance of unmet needs.
Maybe that’s why I cried all the way to San Francisco that day. I was headed again to the Dominican Republic, my attempt to put time and distance between my life and my loss of Nina. But the Lincoln had never been meant for that, nor for me. And yet we are forced onward simply because we are here.
I left it in the parking lot of the motel, half-hoping that someone would steal it. But no. Any good car thief knows that a hoopty-hoop like that one will mess up his profit margin.
My week there had been no escape. I missed Nina and missed my cat, left to a friend to watch. I had relied so much on both to comfort me.
The way back wasn’t any easier. After flying for twelve hours, I was driving through the night, rain splattering on the windshield. A California Highway Patrol officer pulled me over to see if I had been drinking. I had been weaving across the road. And my tail-light was out. If he had time, I would have bought him coffee to tell him the whole story. I could also tell him of the shiny new Lincoln, Nina’s Lincoln, that sits untouched in my garage.
I’m told that things will be better. I’ll be able to afford a newer and smaller car and live a comfortable life in a new home. Maybe so. But I’ll drive the old silver Lincoln until it sputters and stops, its tail-lights gone, its electronic windows stuck open, its driver’s side door hanging on its hinges and its seat-covers torn beyond repair.
Old habits die hard. And so do old memories.