My Car

My car is a 2004 Holden Commodore Acclaim; champagne panels wrapped around a powerful engine.

She was the first car I ever drove in. Dad took me to the high school near my house, just past the swimming pool, halfway to Peregian. He parked her down the end of the long, empty road and I drove her up and back, taking advantage of the weekend quiet.

As I learned to drive, I generally spent time in Mum’s car, but occasionally I returned to my Commodore, before she was mine. I remember steering her through the winding roads of Yandina, commenting to Dad that the drive felt so smooth.

When my need for a car aligned with Dad’s job change and new company vehicle, my Commodore truly became mine. She and I were partners, and we could travel the world, if we wanted.

My car became my wings, my freedom. I could carry myself to university and abandon the hour-and-a-half bus rides I used to rely on. I could pack a tiny overnight bag and disappear into the night. I remember driving along Yandina Coolum Road, approaching the tiny unit that my then-boyfriend called home, dark clouds on the horizon. I approached the storm with Thunderstruck blaring on a burnt CD, windows wound down to the breeze.

Cold crept through those windows on many nights as I returned home from work, my uniform unbuttoned and my hair out. Sometimes I went via the drive-thru.

My car took me on my first interstate adventure, two and a half hours south, following the path to my grandparents’ house that I once observed from the backseat with Dad at the wheel, Mum’s feet resting on the dashboard. For a while, my car and I travelled together to Brisbane once a week, chasing adventures of karaoke and pool. The city was a rush.

When we weren’t going on journeys, we sat together. By the beach, or at the top of a parking complex. Stolen moments of peace.

Once, I sat with the inside light on by the river and drained my car’s battery until she couldn’t start anymore. By the time the RACQ arrived, her hazard lights were barely blinking.

A few weeks later, her ignition struggled to spark again in my garage, sad and neglected. I was scared that I had lost her—surely it couldn’t be the battery again—but thankfully a jumpstart and a gentle drive was enough to bring her back to life.

But generally, she was healthy. I took her to be serviced every six months. I paid for new tyres and wheel alignments, and taking off from the traffic lights felt even better than before.

We went cruising down the Bruce Highway, returning to Brisbane for a networking lunch, a cloudless sky ahead. Just past Roy’s Road, a shudder rocked the steering wheel, energy through my fingers. I eased off the accelerator, but the slightest pressure caused the tremors to start again, like the shaking of aged hands. A rattling sound, like gasping breath. Panic.

I pulled onto the shoulder, just out of reach of the hurtling traffic. Unsure what to do, I tried to breathe. I called the RACQ—they had saved her before, and surely they could do the same again.

I curled up in the passenger seat, hazard lights flashing and my seatbelt on, waiting for the tow truck to take me to safer ground. I spoke to everyone as I waited, seeking advice, seeking solace.

Half an hour passed before the tow truck arrived, driven by a man with a reassuring smile. He checked my tyres for bulging and seemed confident that I would still make it to lunch. I sat in the backseat of his truck as I waited for my car to be coaxed on behind me.

The tow truck driver—whose name was Shaun—took us to the service station up the road, and there I sat in the heat of my car until the patrol car arrived an hour later. He attempted to turn the key in the ignition, and my car’s engine buzzed and clunk, and fell quiet.

Shaun arrived again an hour after that, and took me to a repairer. My car was left alone in their yard, waiting for Monday morning when I could call after her.

The repairer opened at eight o’clock and I called at eight-oh-one. It was only eight-thirty when I was told that my car’s engine had died, and that she could not be saved for less money than she was worth. My car’s soul passed on while we were cruising down the highway beneath the perfect blue.

My car was a 2004 Holden Commodore Acclaim; champagne panels wrapped around a powerful engine and so many memories.

Engines die, but memories don’t.