A massive prehistoric beast lives with us. It rumbles threateningly when it’s awakened, it shakes the earth when it moves, it gobbles up space, it’s always hungry. It’s my archrival.
The beast is my husband’s beloved muscle car, his 1970 Chevrolet Camaro. It’s a polluter, with no catalytic converter, and a gas guzzler. It gets a mere 15 miles to the gallon. Maybe 10. Yet the old space hog gets to occupy the garage while my sensitive compact lives outside in the driveway because there’s not enough room for it. On cold winter mornings I bundle up and go outside and, teeth chattering, scrape ice off the windows of my two-year-old Corolla. I run the defogger to clear the windows before I can get on the road. All the while Frank’s beast snuggles comfy-cozy in the garage.
When we married I moved into Frank’s house and from the beginning the Camaro was like a roommate. A roommate I’m jealous of. It gets so much attention. Even though it’s an environmental nightmare Frank loves it. It’s the closest thing to a child he’s ever had. He’s the original owner and lived with it for more 20 years before he met me. He’s always working on it. Changing the oil, or tuning it up, or fixing a leak of some sort, or adjusting something or other.
It was never like that when we were dating. I came first. I wasn’t crazy about the car because it didn’t have air conditioning or a CD player, or anything modern. But I wasn’t jealous of it. We would just use my little Sentra with its air conditioning, electric windows, CD player, etc.
I was almost rid of the Camaro once. Frank called one morning from the side of the freeway where the Camaro had broken down. He thought the block was cracked. I don’t know much about cars but I was pretty sure a cracked block is fatal.
I told him I was sorry, trying to hide the insincerity in my voice. I drove over to him, singing along to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High. I actually felt high. I was making plans for life after death of the Camaro. Frank would take my Sentra and I would buy the new Toyota I’d been wanting. Sweet. Lots of head room. Five-speed automatic shift, sunroof, 10-disk CD player. My fantasy ended when I saw Frank and his damaged chariot. I pulled over, turned off John Denver and tried to look sad.
The Camaro wasn’t drivable so we called a tow truck. It came and loaded up the car and drove away. On our way home Frank said glumly he didn’t think they made new engines for his model anymore.
“I’m so sorry,” I lied. When we got home I started dinner and Frank called his car guy. They talked a long time. After Frank hung up he was beaming.
“They do make new engines for my model,” he enthused. “And it won’t cost nearly as much as I thought.”
Then and there, I decided to take my stand. I took a deep breath.
“If you’re going to keep that old dinosaur, I want a divorce,” I said. “I’ve had it. It’s me or that car.”
KIDDING. I didn’t really say that. I thought it, but what I said was, “Gee, that’s great honey. I’m happy for you.” The truth is I was afraid to find out which of us he would choose.
Frank and I and the Camaro are still together. I still park in the driveway. Frank’s Camaro still hulks in the garage, like always except now it’s got a brand new engine. It’s good for another 50 years. It will outlast me. It’s not fair. When I break down, I won’t get a new engine. The most I’ll get is a new knee or a new hip or two in the coming years, maybe a pacemaker. Minor parts. But on the bright side, the Camaro’s longevity reminds me of my own mortality. It helps me to savor every moment that I have now.
My struggle with the Camaro has taught me that I can only change myself. I can’t make the Camaro go away. I can’t make Frank less attached to it. With acceptance comes peace. It’s good for me, after all, to get outside on those freezing winter mornings and scrape ice off windshields. It’s invigorating, and I can practice gratitude, being thankful I’m not back East shoveling snow. I see the positive side. I’ve stopped calling the car my husband loves a gas-guzzling, space-hogging, polluting, noisy, prehistoric old heap. Now I see an iconic American classic, majestic symbol of a bygone golden age of Detroit and American car makers. I’ve learned nonresistance. That wretched old road hog—oops, I mean that national treasure—is my teacher.