She is Absolutely Red.
The used Ford Tempo that I traded in for her was a more subdued shade of red. But an oil leak caused smoke to puff out from under the Tempo’s hood, much to the alarm of nearby motorists. More importantly, it was summer in Albuquerque, and even a dry heat is still heat without functioning air conditioning. That’s why I relinquished the conservative-like-me Tempo in exchange for the sportier Echo.
She is the first and only car I have purchased new.
It was 2001. My first husband and I were finally DINKs and could afford a car payment. Once we’d picked her out on the lot, we impulsively arranged for dealer financing. We just as quickly refinanced at the credit union and were able to own her outright within two years.
She has over 140,000 miles on her. She’s taken me as far north as Copper Harbor, Michigan, as far south as Las Cruces, New Mexico, as far west as Phoenix, Arizona, and as far east as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She’s been my transportation on several round trips between Albuquerque and Cleveland, including a fateful voyage in August 2004.
That summer, my husband and I had quickly traveled to Ohio upon receiving the news that my grandmother was in the hospital. We drove in the little red car twenty-four hours straight. My grandmother was discharged within a couple of days, so we headed back west after a brief visit. The school year was just about to start, so I had to get back to my job as a teacher. Still, we opted to stop for the night in Oklahoma on the journey back.
I was driving my little red car west on Interstate 44 early the next morning. As we approached Oklahoma City, a light drizzle began. I was in the left lane when I noticed the sign indicating that the exit for I-40 was ahead. Anxious about missing the exit, I sped up to get past the other traffic. That’s when I hydroplaned across three lanes of traffic. I saw the headlights of the other vehicles coming toward us as we spun 360 degrees. The car rotated until, by pure luck, we went off the road into a grassy area without a collision. We just missed crashing into the concrete barriers and metal guard rails that had bordered the highway up to this point.
We sat for several minutes, stunned. I don’t know how long we idled there. Long enough to make sure everyone, including the dog, was okay I guess. My hands shook as I cautiously pulled back onto the interstate. As we continued on our way, I realized I’d had plenty of time to merge right toward the exit.
We were on the western side of the city when I finally had to exit I-40. I pulled into a Shell station, parked, and began to sob. My husband took over the driving for the next few hours.
Once I stopped crying, we began to talk. By the time we got back to Albuquerque, we had agreed on one thing: life’s too short. I had grown to love New Mexico, but it was hard to be so far away from family. I quit my teaching job. We sold our house and all of the contents that we could unload. By December, the little red car took me home to Ohio.
In the eleven years since I bought my little red Echo, she has lost all of her hub caps, and her roof and hood is pockmarked from hail. She has dings and scratches, and she has lost some of her Absolutely Red shine. I’ve lived in seven different places and gotten remarried, but the car has stayed the same.
I’m thankful for this car. While our other sedan keeps requiring expensive repairs, she’s been a reliable mode of transportation. She gets great gas mileage, and I can park her almost anywhere. I feel confident, more stylish and more adventurous when I drive her. And why not? She is, after all, Absolutely Red.
I’m linking up a post from NaBloPoMo 2012 with the Yeah Write #137 Moonshine Grid.