CarStories are stories about your cars. This week, we have Samantha Garlock.
How many books could I fit in the trunk of my 2000 Volvo v40? If I put the back seats down to make the trunk bigger, I could maybe even some of my craft supplies. Not all of the fabric, though. I’d been working night shifts at a fabric factory (but like, a cool, start-up factory), where employees were given an allowance to spend on defective fabric. My car was currently full of whimsically printed fabric. Yards upon yards of chevron, geometric animals, deer, triangles. I’d have to go through it, find a home for it, to make room for my books.
Shit, I forgot about my kitchen stuff- the collection of mugs, carefully curated, the microwave my mother had bought me at the KMart near my NYU dorm, and the one left-handed pot my father had bought me (I’m not left handed). As I stood at my station, cutting and folding yards of fabric for shifts of eight to twelve hours, I mentally catalogued all of my worldly belongings, trying to determine just how much I could fit into my car.
I folded an order of organic cotton knit printed with buffalo, and fell into a daydream. The fabric transformed into a dress, and I was driving across the country, headed West. I was headed toward San Francisco, where at least one friend-of-a-friend would surely take me in. Maybe I’d stop in Colorado and stay for a while with the hippie Jewish grandmother I’d seen once or twice, nearly twenty years ago. In my buffalo-printed dress, I drove 80mph on on the empty highway. Windows down, sunglasses on, I imagined myself like Joan Didion sailing up and down the state of California. I’d thrown everything important into my car and taken off in the middle of the night after another fight, or in the morning after he went to work. Packed everything into the trunk, with a suitcase in the passenger seat, and driven away, away from the trashcan kicked across the kitchen, the bag of dried beans that burst when thrown against the wall, from the yelling, the rules, from my constant exhaustion and apologies. The sturdy black Volvo would shield me, protect me as I whisked myself away.
My shift ended. I walked through the dark parking lot, keys in hand, thankful for the automatic “unlock” button that would also turn the lights on in my car. Tonight, the Volvo would drive me forty minutes back to the drafty “dream house” where he was probably, hopefully, already asleep. I listened to the college radio station for the first ten minutes, then switched between the country station and Top 40 when everything else turned to static. The office parks turned to run-down strip malls, then to the glowing signs of closed fast-food drive-thrus, then to trees interrupted by stretches of farmland.
I slowed, flicked on my right turn signal, and the car stopped. Just stopped. My heart froze- would my car really do this to me, leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night? Who would I call? If I called the person waiting for me at home, he should come and rescue me like the knight in shining armor he thought he was, but there was maybe a fifty-fifty chance he would be angry and add it to the ever-growing list of things that were my fault. My best (and only) friend lived too far away, I couldn’t realistically expect her to come help me. I didn’t have any other friends close enough to call in an emergency, and if I had, that just would have made him angry.
As these thoughts zipped through my mind, I turned the key to the “off” position, pressed my foot on the break, held my breath, and restarted the ignition. The engine growled reluctantly to life. “Really?” I imagined it sighing, “Fine, if you’re really sure that’s where you want to go.” The radio came back on, just in time for me to hear Ariana Grande singing that, since breaking up with someone, she now had “one less problem.” The Carolina moon was bigger than I’d ever seen it, and I turned onto the dark country road which would take me back to that cold house.