151000-ish kilometers—306 since my last fill. A quarter tank of gas. An engine light that flicks on and off of its own accord, a pattern that I quit trying to figure out a long time ago. There’s trash everywhere. An empty bag of chips rides shotgun, along side a box stuffed full of ice cream bar wrappers, an expired prescription, and the receipt from my last oil change—one that was at least 4000 clicks overdue. There’s a half-eaten pizza sitting in the backseat, sharing space with textbooks, shoes, and a Ouija board I’m afraid to toss out. A 12 pack of now-slushy Stella rests illegally behind the passenger seat. An almost empty bottle of windshield washer fluid is tipped over in my trunk, leaking all over the booster cables I don’t even know how to use.
A thick layer of dust crusts the dash, some of it puffing up as I depress the clutch, turn the key, and force her engine to life. It revs and grinds, a noise I know isn’t quite right. I peer through the windshield, above the crack that stretches across its length and around the frost I’m too lazy to scrape off. Exhaust billows up and around me, the gun metal gray cloud building up and breaking apart into hundreds, then thousands, then millions of polluted particles. I turn the heated seats up all the way—level 5. Even though sometimes the highest setting is lukewarm, and the middle setting is bum-burning, and sometimes her seats don’t even heat up at all, probably a silent protest against the cold, the morning, my irresponsibility as a car owner. I sit. I wait. Watching my breath condense as I breathe in and out, in and out, turning the still air into white clouds. My breathing falls into rhythm with the rear wipers, the bare plastic scraping against the window pushing melted frost around and leaving behind more than it takes away. A sluggish chunk of snow slides down before being knocked aside by the wayward wiper and I decide that means it’s time to go.
I slam into first, feathering on the clutch as I try to pull away from the curb realizing too late that my e-brake is still engaged. I release it and shoot out into the street, sliding a little before her winter tires find their grip on the thin layer of ice that crusts all of Edmonton’s residential streets. We stop and start our way out of my neighbourhood, stuttering through the four-way stop and then stalling in the middle of a major intersection. Her body slams to a stop—engine off, battery light on. The chassis feels lower to the ground, like she’s relaxed into a sleep. I depress the clutch, turn the key, and she wakes up with a rev and grind.