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The wind is whipping around, releasing the heat that is stuck inside. Music is blasting as four girls scream out the windows, “Tonight’s gonna be a good, good, night.” The speedometer reads 65, 70, 80 as I fly by a driver from Connecticut who doesn’t quite understand the two lane highway in Vermont. The wind pricks our eyes making them water, and hair flying about in colors of blonde and brunette are all I can see if I try and glance in my rearview mirror. Laughter escapes us in a carefree way, and the music rises into a climax of joy and perfection. This is our good night, day, summer and year.
The sun shines off the silver paint; I have to squint my eyes as I approach my car. The summer heat is sending sweat down my spine and I’m anxious to roll down my windows for the first time. My car roars to life and purrs with anticipation. It too is ready to feel free and alive. The winter was long and it constantly seemed like I was barely escaping death. My car was made for the summer, the heat, the shine. My hands are warmed where they grip the black Chevrolet cover on my steering wheel, and I sigh. This is my second home, as I stare around the littered passenger seat with McDonald’s bags and cups, that missed the Price Chopper trash bag attached to my shifter.
I barrel down the short road, glance for oncoming cars, cross the way and stop just outside of my best friend’s house. Her blonde hair glistens against the summer sun. She was meant for this season; we all seem to be. Her smile is radiating and she hops up the short steps to get to me as her tattered cut up jean shorts fly around, her bikini top can be seen on the back of her neck and the blue stripes through her tank top. Bridget whips open the door and plops herself down as if she was home. Her flip flops come flying off and her feet come up to rest on my dash board.
“Hi.” Bridget’s blue eyes seem to smile and her white teeth are thrown back into a giddy laugh.
“Hi.” I say back, shift into drive, pulling away.
Bridget pats my dashboard and smiles, her right foot dangles lightly out of her window. “Hi Lexie,” She says in a motherly voice, as if she’s missed her, my car seems like a different thing in the summer. I dubbed her Lexie the moment I bought her the summer before as my cousin Sam and I were washing her. We were talking names and my cousin was saying how she liked the name Lexie and she wished it were hers, and then I smiled.
“Her name shall be Lexie then.” I said, and Sam laughed and nodded.
“Lexie,” she repeated.
We pull into Kelsey’s drive way and I take a deep breath in. Oh the many things my car has been through. Making the trip up this long, narrow, driveway, where there are pot holes that seem to be driven down to the earth’s core is certainly one of them. A trip my car has to make every day. It’s nearly impossible to try and avoid them. Hitting our head on the roof, and listening to the bottom of my car scrape against the dirt is inevitable, but it is something we endure to get to our second family. We pull around the bend and see all of Kelsey’s tenants parked in various places, Jordan’s golden Pontiac is parked in the far corner. I pull in next to her on the grass and Bridget and I make our way inside.
The house is in a bustle of movement, people are rushing around getting ready to go out in the yard to work on the garden, or go down to the Farmer’s Market. Jordan is sitting on a stool, hands on the black vinyl, pushing her legs back and forth. Kelsey’s standing by her side drinking water from her water bottle. Jordan smiles at us as we enter and Bridget beams and looks from Kelsey to Jordan, “Hi beautifuls. Ready?” They nod and Jordan pushes herself off, her legs making a peeling sound as she gets down. We laugh and know it’s time to go swimming.
“Who’s driving?” Kelsey ponders. Jordan and I look at each other and shrug.
“It doesn’t matter. I can if you want.” Jordan says, but she knows that it’s a silly answer.
“No, it’s fine. I can.” I say.
“Are you sure?” Kelsey asks, “You drive all the time.”
“And I never mind.” I respond. They all shrug and give up. I drive them around everywhere, and I know they feel guilty for it, but I honestly love driving. I never mind.
“Shot gun!” Bridget shouts so loud, Kelsey who passes her, jumps and little and goes ‘Oh.’ Bridget bursts out laughing and runs to my car throwing open the passenger side door. Turning back to us, who have just barely gotten out of the house, sticks out her tongue and gets in. As soon as my car turns over everyone rolls down the windows, except Jordan who is unfortunately sitting next to the window that can’t roll down. Bridget beats me to the switch that opens my sunroof, my CD starts playing the middle of the song “Wild at Heart,” by Gloriana. Kelsey gives out a small gasp and Bridget yells, “Yes!” and hits the pervious button, so it will start over again. Our heads start bobbing and I pull out of Kelsey’s drive way and we make our way up the already familiar drive to Lake Raponda in Wilmington, Vermont.
My foot hits the gas pedal and we accelerate from 30 to 40 to 50 as the road becomes more and more of the state highway. My car purrs and shoots forward as she hits 50 and everyone’s hair is flying around but no one is willing to roll up their windows. We’ve hidden way to long from this feeling. The feeling of freedom, warmth, laughter, and happiness. I smile at my car, always so reliable. My hands slide up and down the steering wheel, like I’m petting a dog. I’ve become quite attached to her, which I know will make for a bad end the day when I’ll have to give her up for another. For now, she’s my car and I try to not think too far ahead to that day.
My car takes the hit of all the pot holes that it has to meet as we drive down the dirt road that leads to Lake Raponda like a champ. She certainly took the hit the time we all decided to play Ship’s Mast in the Hannaford’s parking lot at 12 o’ clock at night and my friend Sean tried to lean out the window as I took a sharp corner to scare Amal and Ava who were lying down on my hood. He leaned out too far and fell a little, pushing down my window and breaking it. All you can do now is use the button to push it up if it ever falls down. It will never open again, with the fear that it will fall through the crack and smash into pieces inside the door with all the mechanical broken parts from the window that helped push it up and down. I can hear it rattle whenever I take a sharp corner, moving around in my door. My car takes the hit for almost everything, and it tries not to protest whenever I push it past its limit when I try and speed past people, or even just for fun on the highways or abandoned roads.
Lexie took the hit for the time I wasn’t paying attention on the Fourth of July and I had gone to pick up Jordan from her house. I was backing up from a tight space and was paying attention to the two cars in front of me, trying to avoid hitting them; I didn’t even look behind me. I heard this crash and I didn’t understand what was happening until I looked up and into the rearview mirror and saw a truck parked behind me. My breath quickened and my heart started pounding, instant tears sprang to my eyes as I put my car into drive and pulled forward a little. I got out inspecting the damage as my hands shot to my head rubbing my temples up and down, trying to stop the instant fear and panic. Her left tail light was completely blown out and I had three black scrapes from when the other owner’s truck rubbed against my bumper. The situation was handled and a week later she was back to life after searching around for a tail light and finding an exact match at a junkyard for forty dollars.
My dad found my car in Saxton’s River, the summer before my junior year, through an ad in the paper. He took me and my mother there one day, only to find out that my dad knew the guy selling me my future car. Go figure. My dad knows everybody and we ended up buying it for 100 dollars less than the original price. It was a 2000 Silver Chevy Malibu that needed plenty of work. I ran my hand across the warm silver paint and sat in the driver’s seat with my hands on the steering wheel. It was like she was calling to me. She wanted a home. My dad picked her up two weeks later, where it sat on our lawn for three months. My first car was my first responsibility and besides the loan my parents took out for me to buy it, everything else was up to me. Over that first summer I spent 740 dollars on my car, not including the gas. That wasn’t the end of it either, being that several things had gone wrong since and there have been times where I have been carless for awhile. The nice thing, though, is that I had my brother and father, car experts. All I needed to do was buy the parts and they had my car fixed in two weeks, always.
Despite the frustration of what turned out to be a not-so-good investment of a car, I still love her, and she was always reliable to get me from point A to B. Lexie has been a good first car to me and I wouldn’t have wanted any other first car. I’m afraid though, that as my year rolls on, she might not be able to make it the last leg of the race with me, into my future. In the Fall I plan on moving to Burlington and getting an apartment, along with working and taking CCV classes. Burlington, however, has far worse winters than Brattleboro and my dad won’t be there to fix my broken car. I will have to find something that will get me through those winters alive, and while the thought has threatened tears to my eyes; I know it’s for the best. She wasn’t meant to be my car forever; she’ll go on to be someone else’s good first car. With work added in and maybe a new name.
My car pulls to the curb and we step out onto the dirt road and make our way to Lake Raponda, a few weeks previous Kelsey showed me this place for the first time. The glistening sun against the lapping water. The light breeze that makes the hair on my arms rise, not from being cold but from being happy. This drive has become familiar and has already happened every day, just like driving to Kelsey’s house.
The summer quickly faded and my car felt like she lost her life a little again, but I patted her on the dashboard and whispered, “We still have one left,” without trying to choke up. As fall flew by and winter came back in a hurry, I found myself driving to Kelsey’s house in the beginning of a snow storm. Our summer anthem came on, and Bridget cranked it smiling, “Tonight’s gonna be a good, good night.” She started to sing, and as the song faded into another, she sighed.
“You know what?” she asked me.
“What?” I questioned.
“Lexie will always be our little bit of summer. One, because she’s the car we drove in the most, and two because she is a Malibu.” She laughed.
I laughed too, but she was right. Lexie was our constant that summer. Kelsey didn’t have a car, being that her van blew its transmission the winter before and I always beat Jordan to the punch whenever we found the four of us sitting in Kelsey’s kitchen getting ready to go out for a drive. Lexie was the car we had experienced our summer in and she was about to experience our last year together. We got to Kelsey’s house and sat around a little before we decided to hit up Cumberland Farms for .79 cent slushies, even in the middle of winter we’d still get slushies at Cumby’s. The radio came on instantly to the beginning of a new song, our new anthem. We cranked it, as we all screamed. “Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy.” There were going to be many mornings like that this year, and there were also going to be many good, good nights.