I was reminded of the scene from Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' in which astronaut Dave Bowman was forced to shut down a malfunctioning HAL computer, as I undid the screws from the number plate on my 1971 Holden HG Sedan. With each turn of the screwdriver, part of my car's life and very essence seemed to dissipate before my eyes, in the same way that HAL's malevolent personality did in the film. In the darkness, I tried to remove the final screw by torchlight, when I was suddenly distracted by the tune 'Daisy', which drifted into my consciousness:
"Daisy, Daisy, tell me your answer, do."
I ignored the sudden pang of guilt that struck me and continued turning. The voice seemed slower now.
"I'm - half - cray - zeee."
The tune continued in the background as I noticed that the final screw wasn't coming out. It seemed to have been threaded and was turning on the spot. A final desperate cling to life? A last gasp before the grim hand of death reached out for my beloved? Memories came flooding back of our brief yet torrid time together.
Upon reflection, you were more like a girlfriend that my friends couldn't understand, than HAL the homicidal computer. You were a seventies model and therefore didn't have the same prestige in their eyes. Most of my friends preferred the 1960s EH series. They tolerated our affair, however, because you were a classic Holden and therefore commanded some respect. My mother never liked you. I suspect you didn't fit in to her idea of what she imagined was our family's status in society. My car was from the wrong side of the tracks and therefore our love was never meant to be.
Other less-cultured car enthusiasts were confused by my unwillingness to put mags on you, lower your suspension and generally hot-you-up. They didn't understand. I loved you for what you were, not for what you could become. That is what true love is. Unconditional.
Alas, being a male, there was always going to be something about a woman that I could never understand and I freely admit I wasn't able to give you what you needed. I never read the signs of what was wrong with you until it was too late. Problems escalated from oil leaks and worn-out gaskets to rear axle problems and a near fatal incident involving the ball joint coming off the front-left axle and the car skidding 20 meters on sheer metal. I wasn't to know that little problems would become bigger problems and eventually overwhelm our relationship. Like a typical male I never read the warning signs.
Was it because I had no experience with cars growing up?
Was it because I went to a boys-only high school and therefore couldn't
understand the complex female psyche?
We had so much in common. We were both born in the same year. This made me especially protective towards you. Every rust spot, dent, or skip in the motor was an analogy for my own sad decline, in the same way as a wrinkle or a grey hair. When I travelled in the elevator at Waterfront Place (one of the tallest buildings in Brisbane), I marvelled at the number of buttons that filled up the display panel and realised that I'd soon be alive for more years than the building contained floors. It made me wonder about your own dark past and who had owned you before I did. I wasn't jealous, however, just intrigued by your mystery; a puzzle I was never likely to solve.
The only thing about your past of which I was certain, involved your previous owner's promise that you'd be mine if I could rescue you from the ditch you were stuck in at the back of his house. I went to considerable time and expense pulling you out with the aid of a tow truck, before realising that I could have driven you out if I'd only checked to see if there was any petrol in your tank. I spent a considerable amount of money getting you on the road again and nursing you back to health. Being a poor student at the time, the only maintenance I could perform on you in the intervening years was with tools I owned myself - a phillips-head screwdriver and an old Target socket set. You deserved better than I could offer and I knew it. That's why I was ashamed to show you to other mechanics, for fear of the retribution I would receive because of your obvious neglect. The only person I really allowed to work on you was my girlfriend's father, because, hopefully, he would understand that I wasn't some kind of abusive monster, rather, just someone who appreciated your beauty but couldn't understand your complexities.
We were star-crossed lovers and therefore - like the best romances - our story had to end in tragedy. I realised one day that if we both were to survive, then our love had to end. We could no longer give each other what we truly needed. I decided that I had to give you to another. I realised that you might not survive the transition to another owner and that you could possibly end up being used as parts. I tried to comfort myself by considering your demise in the same way as an organ donor might. You'd die so that another may live. I selfishly wished you'd survive because that's the thought which comforted me the most.
I returned to the job at hand and finally decided to wrench myself away from her clutches before I succumbed to my maudlin thoughts. She had to understand. It's was the best thing for both of us. I couldn't remove the threaded screw so I simply decided to pull the soft metal of the numberplate away. A wave of remorse overwhelmed me as I looked towards her form in the moonlight. I imagined what she must have looked like coming off the production line and the bright future that she believed surely awaited her. It grieved me to see it end, yet in the semi darkness the ravages of time no longer showed. I remember her like this. I drew the tarpaulin over and walked away. Although she may be gone from my life, I hope that somehow she'll realise all the good times we shared will remain with me forever.