MY GIRL • by Camille Griep

“I’m so sorry, car,” she says to me, slumping in the front seat. We’ve been at the dealership for several hours now, but instead of someone pulling me into the oil change bay, I’ve just been sitting here, red paint blistering in the sun while she runs her hands over newer, brighter versions of me. And, now, she’s sobbing into the steering wheel, the doors closed, the temperature rising. A bag sits in her lap, billowing with the flotsam that’s filled my doors and cup holders and seat backs for years. There’s the tassel from her college graduation hat and napkins from the time the drive-in cashier asked her to marry him and then chased us down the alley; coins and dried flowers; movie tickets and gas receipts; a set of wood handled screwdrivers; cassette tapes and lipstick. I suppose this means it’s the end.

“You’ve been a good friend.” She repeats this, patting the dash as if I could answer, tell her it’s okay that she’s leaving me here. I guess she’s decided to take that convertible over there — it’s Seattle for god’s sake. That blue car won’t be me. She won’t be happy. I can tell it isn’t a good one. It will be the transmission, the exhaust, the traction, the top. It will be one thing after another. I may have gone through four gaskets and a gas gauge, but I never left her stranded. We learned things together. When we blew a fuse outside of that refinery town on our way to California, she stopped and replaced it herself. We were both proud of her.

“I’ll miss you so much,” she says. She’s stopped crying now, takes a deep breath, and cracks the door open. Back when my meter said 000042 instead of 140000, she was younger. Lighter. She smoked and so did her friends. One burned a hole in my ceiling. She sewed it closed the next day with tiny loops of matching beige thread. She joked that my insides were coffee colored, just like hers. She sang a lot and we both liked that. The few cassettes that remain seem to be in that bag, but they’re as tattered as the disconnected CD player in the trunk. That’s been inoperable for awhile, replaced by something that looks like a phone but isn’t a phone and goes where the lighter used to go. It’s the way of all things, I suppose. I’ll miss her too. I’ve never known anyone else.

“I told the sales guy to make sure that he finds someone to love you. Someone young, someone who will appreciate you,” she says, one leg hanging out of the door. I know that she appreciated me when we peeled out of parking lots to attract the attention of estranged beaus. I know she entrusted me with the care of her loved ones, too. When Dumpling the Dog became a passenger, my girl adapted the seat belts and shampooed the vomit out of the floors. And afterwards, when we became a foursome, Dumpling was relegated to the back seat and True Love began sitting in the front.

“I asked him to make sure it’s a girl, maybe one with a ponytail. One who won’t crash you into a bridge. One that will take care of you,” she says. If only I could tell her that the only roads I know are hers, having climbed the five mountain passes between here and her childhood home more times than either of us remember. I’ve smelled like her perfume for years. The seats are broken into the shape of her hips and the small of her back, not new hips, not even new hips with a pony tail. I won’t trust this new girl. This new girl won’t weep when she runs me into the pillar of the parking garage or touch the scar with regret, each time she walks past the passenger side. When she backs into another car, this new girl won’t start looking behind her twice. No one is as smart as my girl. I know I’m not as fast as I once was, but I still love her. I know she still loves me.

My girl shoves the door open all the way, stands in one swift motion, and says, “Goodbye.” The fresh air is arresting. I watch her grab the old salesman’s arm, hard. The salesman looks at her with a look half pity, half derision. True Love is standing there too and gives the salesman a look half knowing, half threatening. I can’t tell whether he means it, but the salesman tells her he knows what a good car I am.

They get in the new blue car and I watch her drive away. I’m not sure how to cry. They put me through the baths and the detail shop and after a few weeks, I start to feel better. People run their hands down my side, comment on my color, but the right one hasn’t come just yet. One of these days soon, though, I’ll see that ponytail come bobbing up the aisle. And I’ll know she’s my girl from a mile away.

Camille Griep lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared in On The Premises, Short, Fast, & Deadly, and Used Furniture Review. She likes wine.

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