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Kiss to a Prelude
When I was seventeen, a tree fell on my car and suddenly my life was
full of possibility. I had decided against habit not to go off campus
for lunch that day and I was doing a rare bit of studying in a deserted
hallway when Paris Johnson came in a little out of breath and said "Laure,
a tree fell on your car!" Naturally, I thought she was joking, but
outside the curiosity-seekers were already drifting out to the parking
lot and the truth began to sink in. It was a windy day, and a very tall
pine tree had neatly fallen down the length of my little white Mitsubishi,
making the roof into a V-shape that just touched the stick shift.
Out of tragedy there often arises a new optimism, and so it was when I, with the help of insurance money, became the owner of a 1986 Honda Prelude with 113,000 miles on the odometer and a grey-and-black velveteen interior that matched its shiny black paint (and my similarly hued wardrobe).
The Honda was a beauty, but not the flashy, crass kind. She was more
a Judy Davis than a Kim Basinger, angular and brainy. When I put my foot
on her gas pedal, things happened, and fast. She could fly out of the
starting gate, or any intersection, like a bullet. Yet she was subtle.
Her spoiler was the merest whiff of foam, yet behind the wheel I was tempted
to incite high-speed chases.
Ten years and 113,000 miles later, she wasn't quite as peppy as in those early days. Still, she was fun to drive, had lots of life left in her. Her steering wheel was flaking away in my hands, but mostly she was the beauty she was when we met. Her headlights still retracted sexily, like the blink of a film-noire femme fatale. Her paint was little thin on top, but not so much you'd notice from a distance. If the rains let up, I opened her sunroof, my own little observatory on clear summer nights.
I know it's crass to love an automobile, but this car was special. She was dependable, working extra hard even when I didn't warm her up. She was also unpretentious, unlike later Preludes with their bulbous lines. One of my arty friends once called her "understated and sexy," a description I covet for myself. I felt stylish tooling around town in a car with a spoiler, even one made of rubber. But it wasn't just looks. This baby had zip, not to mention low gas mileage and the famed Honda reliability. I knew on my first test drive that this car could err... take me places.
Driving down the highway at 80 miles an hour, sun roof open, stereo blasting, I could head just about anywhere and be happy. This car was made for wide-open highways, the ones where I could put on the cruise control and look around me because the road ahead was so straight. Diesel and heat mixed with the smell of tobacco fields and the ocean. Driving beats all other modes of transport; one can go very far, even in one day, but not so quickly that it isn't even travel. The landscapes are rich with real fields, real homes, not the crop circles and plots seen from the sky. When roadside attractions catch the eye, you pull over and look. When my policy was that my belongings were limited to what fit in my car, I felt free to wander a little.
The Honda is gone now, sold to some sleazy lot in Seattle, though sometimes
I still think I see her driving around in Vancouver- the same upholstery,
paint fading through on the roof and hood. I have a new car, but it's
nothing more than a headache I'd like to forget. My Prelude ruined me
for others. But it was a lovely ride.