For Sofi

I am the kind of girl who gives names to things: cars, desk ornaments, men I’m not quite dating (Cheekbones; The Brit). I name the inanimate objects to lend them significance, to bring them closer, to humanise them. With the men it might be the opposite.

I bought Sofi the Subaru six weeks before my father died, after the Christmas when he turned yellow. I think she was the last car he rode in for a reason other than to go to hospital. When I brought her home for the first time, we went for a drive together just as far as the Washpool bridge. He fiddled with things, the way he always did, peering into the console and opening the glovebox to uncover my secret stash of chocolate biscuits.

In late 2012 Lil (full name: Lil Green Car), my previously unflappable Hyundai Excel, had developed a habit of simply turning herself off at traffic lights, and when the cost of suggested repairs rose dangerously close to her value, I hardened my heart. Driving back and forth to see my parents was hard enough without the fear that I might end up sitting beside the highway, bonnet up, despairing.

I couldn’t afford Sofi, but I bought her anyway, and drove her home with the tips of my fingers, waiting for something to go wrong.
She attracted comment. My mother, upon seeing my cousin’s new red two-door Mazda, remarked that Sofi was not really “a single girl’s car, is she?”, concerned, I think, that what rare few suitors I had would now be deterred not just by my height and my social awkwardness and my moustache but, most lamentably, by a vehicle that marked me from a distance as an inner-suburban soccer mum.

Sofi guzzled petrol and I never really learned how to reverse park her. The day after my father’s funeral her engine died as I was driving down a hill outside Toowoomba: rats had got in and chewed all her wires. The RACQ man fished out a half-built straw nest and patched her up and she got me home. She always got me home.

I sold her to a wholesaler, in the end, when a private buyer failed to materialise before I had to leave. I get five grand less than she was worth and shuddered to calculate everything I’d spent on her but I didn’t regret a cent. For three years I owned my dream car and together we had climbed mountains and found surf breaks and given lifts to people we loved. She had taken me to McDonalds in the middle of the night and to work at 5am when things were bad and she’d driven quietly, solidly, while I cried onto her steering wheel about boys who left and fathers who died and dreams that didn’t come true.

She gave me the illusion of freedom when I felt I had none: an open road even when the destination was unhappy; a sense of control over how I got there, even when it wasn’t where I wanted to be headed.

I gave her a name and she grew into it; she came closer. I said goodbye to her as though she could hear me.


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