I go for monthly writing classes with Cathy Eden. It’s like AA for writer’s so it’s more of a support group than a how-to-get-published class.
They are a life-line for me.
It just feels better to struggle with others than to struggle by myself although of course the irony is that it then stops being a struggle when we’re struggling together. (If you are interested in getting real with your writing struggles in a gentle way with wine, muffins and other snackage included, please do follow this link.)
So one day Cathy told us about how her beloved Toyota Conquest she’d cherished for 27 years had been stolen from the Traffic department’s parking lot whilst she was renewing the licence (the irony of this I will save for another post).
I was surprised by how sad I felt about this.
After all, hundreds of cars are stolen everyday here in South Africa.
But this wasn’t just any old car.
It was a T O Y O T A C O N Q U E S T.
I have a soft-spot for Toyota Conquests because my mom was gifted a blue 80’s vintage one by her dad that she dubbed “Bluebird”.
Bluebird came back from the “written-off” dead after an accident and was magically retrieved after being stolen and when we finally decided to say goodbye to her wholey, rusty self I swear there was a wink in her headlights.
Now I have one from the 90’s in that quintessentially 70’s cream colour with brown trim. There’s rumblings of naming her Eggbird but nothing official yet.
These cars have personalities. They must be named.
A soft-spot indeed…
I was therefore moved to write the following story about what I imagined had happened to Cathy’s Conquest:
I wanted to write a poem about how sad I was to hear your story about your beloved Conquest, imagining, like a lost pet, how scared your little red tjor might be in the hands of those who might not be caring for him very well, perhaps taking pieces off of him, driving him recklessly or overloading him with things/animals/people inside and on the roof until the front wheels threaten to leave the ground upon each acceleration and the rear wheels flatten and squelch, rubbing against the body, the only remaining shock absorption being the bit of air left in the tyres and the bums on the back seat.
Although, even if this is so, it may just be a case of having to adjust to his new life, as rough as it may be.
He may be deriving a sense of fulfillment from being in this alternative environment, beginning to enjoy the feeling of being filled to the brim with warm, lively bodies and enjoying aromas of samoosas, gatsby’s, wannabe cheese-naks, KFC with greasy, salt-caked and licked fingers clutching at his handles and window winders.
Twelve hour days of hot tar and pot-holes turning red duco rusty in the dusty dirt, he’d be that big fly on the wall of their lives, listening keenly in exhaust-noise silence, their stories infused through and settling in headrests and ceiling cloth.
Whilst cooling off in the moonlight he might ponder over these tales, thinking what great material all this would be for you to write about and how he would love to hear you read these stories to your grandchildren whilst waiting for the rain to abate in the parking lot before taking them in to the library.
He’ll remember those gentle days fondly, pottering around the suburbs, groceries in the boot, handbag on the passenger side floor, listening to you repeatedly hum a tune that got lodged in your head in between thoughts of what you’d like to make for dinner or how your bank balance is worrying you and how the reassuring rumble of the engine would softly hold your heart, taking you safely home.
If cars could speak, through the grill he’d say:
“Thank you!” and “I love you, Cathy! Don’t worry about me!”
Then I put that in a card with a wonky picture I drew (below) and when I read it to the group we all cried.
Perhaps it’s silly to cry over a car but we had to say our goodbyes somehow.