Let’s say you owned a faded rhinestone necklace, a piece of junk jewelry that you wore everywhere, to get groceries, do other errands, even clean the house or garden. Sometimes you left it out in the sun or rain, and it didn’t matter, because after all, it was just a cheap necklace. Then one day you took it to be cleaned, and when you got it back, it had miraculously become a diamond necklace. What would you do? How would you feel? Would you still wear it everywhere, even to go grocery shopping? Would you still feel comfortable leaving it out in the sun or rain? Would you feel differently about the jewelry? Would you feel differently about yourself?
This is what I am dealing with now that my car has been restored. I really just wanted a cheap paint job, but no one would paint it with the rust. And as it happened, the guy I took it to was a perfectionist, and so now my faded rhinestone car has turned into a diamond, and I don’t know how to react.
I never was one of those folks who loved her car. Never talked to it or gave it human characteristics. Never called it he or she. It was a tool. A sometimes frustrating tool, and sometimes a pleasing tool, but basically, just a thing. And now that thing has become something else.
I was awed when I saw the finished car, and am awed again every time I see it. It truly is a work of art, looking as if it just crept out of a time machine from the 1970s, but it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with me. More like an icon that I have been given permission to drive. But I don’t. Drive it, I mean. At least not yet. It’s sitting in the garage of the house where I am presently residing. I open the garage door periodically and look at it. Fiddle with a few things. (The guy who did the upholstery was not a perfectionist, and the seatbelt is all twisted. To untwist it, the window has to be taken out, which is not easy because the new stripping is so tight, the seller had to go to the auto body shop and install it. Then the new headliner has to be rolled back to get to the bolts. So I’m dealing with the twisted seatbelt as best as I can.)
After I look at the car, I shut the door, leaving the bug to its own devices, and I go walking. I don’t know what to think of the vehicle. Don’t know what to think of me. How will it change me? Will it change me? I don’t know.
I like how the vehicle gleams, and I know the first time I drive it in the fierce desert winds, leave it out in the intense sun, or let it get rained on, that gleam will dull a bit. (The paint isn’t baked like a car fresh from the factory, and though it should hold up for many years, it will lose its diamond-like luster, especially if it’s sandblasted by the winds or water-stained from the rain.) Also, as people keep telling me, it’s at risk for theft or being keyed by someone who is jealous of the perfection. The only way to keep that from happening is to keep it in the garage, and the use of the garage is only temporary. When my friends get back, I’ll move on, and the poor car, like me, will be at the mercy of whatever comes its way.
I’m planning on driving today, even leaving the bug in a parking lot for a couple of hours while I go to dance class, but I am keeping an eye on the increasing clouds. If it looks like rain (and rain is forecast) I might change my mind about driving.
Still, no matter how the bug gleams, it is just a car, a tool.
But somehow, I no longer believe that.
(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)