Saturday, October 14

Life without 'Precious'

Have I told you about "Precious"?

Precious was born a few years ago unexpectedly — and the details of Precious' arrival sure are gray and fuzzy now — when my gear shift, like most other necessary things on or in my car, decided to sort of shrug and give up all hope of a useful life. The plastic button broke and wiggled its way out of the larger part and, viola, there I sat with a hard plastic button in my hand — a piece the size of a rabbit's foot — the key to moving my car or putting it into park, which was the key to starting and stopping the engine.

The little plastic piece was of immeasurable importance to me.

My Precious.

And so for three-odd years I watched over Precious with the careful eye of an overprotective parent. At times I'd be too careless and Precious would go flying out of my palm and into the dark floorboard. If I couldn't feel around with one hand and find Precious, I'd have to engage the emergency brake — car stuck in drive — and get out to look for it. Oftentimes Precious would be caught beneath the musty tower of the driver's seat, surrounded by Walgreens receipts and hair and fossilized French fries. There were times when I'd desperately need to shift gears but wouldn't be able to find Precious anywhere, and I'd scream, "Where is my Precious?!? Who takes it from us?!?"

My near-losses led to times I considered drilling a hole through Precious and attaching it to my keychain so I could be permanently bound to it. But, foreseeing the day when I'd lose my keys forever (which will happen, I'm sure), I knew such a plan wouldn't be wise. Precious had to be kept near its lifeforce, allowed to rest in the little cubby beneath the radio that was also reserved for decades-old mixed tapes and corroded pennies.

Any time I'd take the car in to get the oil changed, I'd have to explain to the mechanic how to shift the gears with the mystery button. And I'd plead with them not to misplace it or else my car would never leave their lot. Most were puzzled but understanding. I became the weirdo with the broken gear shift button.

I finally made the decision last week to have Precious put down and, as much as it pains me to say, replaced.

For the past week, as I have started the car and moved my arm from the key toward the gear shift, my kneejerk movement has been toward the cubby to retrieve Precious so I could insert, shift, remove Precious, put Precious in the cubby, and go. I have had to retrain my right arm to go straight for the gear shift, which is now oddly whole with a new knob and button.

I don't know where it came from. A wrecked car, perhaps. It feels cold and unfamiliar. Not worn and smooth like Precious. It will take some getting used to.

My only consolation is that there are other indispensible pieces of my car breaking off, awaiting nicknames and my love.

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