The first time I drove Harold after finishing my 1,500-word ode to him, a young guy driving a Mustang crossed four lanes of traffic out of turn and totaled my beloved Subaru Forester.
The collision happened on a zippy four-lane road, which the Mustang’s driver was attempting to cross perpendicularly. From my vantage point, I was driving in the far-right lane. The Mustang first registered in the left corner of my vision as a panicked white flash; the driver had misjudged the speed of the traffic he was trying to cut through, then floored the accelerator and shot across the roadway to try to hurtle out of his mistake. I braked as the Mustang illegally surged into my lane, but still t-boned the car’s passenger-side door with Harold’s snout, which destroyed Harold’s engine compartment.
The Forester’s safety system acquitted itself well; I came out with no injuries except sore hands from strangling the steering wheel throughout the collision. Mentally, though, I was a little off. I stayed outwardly composed at the scene, but looking back, the wreck created several incongruities in my head:
- I at first thought the Mustang’s passenger was a woman, judging from the glimpse I caught as the Mustang slid sideways away from Harold immediately after the impact. “Is your lady OK?” I asked the driver about a minute later, thinking his girlfriend might be hurt. He looked confused, but said the passenger was fine. Later, when I got a good look, I realized the passenger was a sturdily built man with a shaved head. (He was, in fact, OK.)
- The tow-truck driver who came to retrieve Harold picked up a car’s grill off the road and tossed it onto Harold’s front passenger-side seat. What the hell, man? I thought. That’s not mine. I somehow believed he’d mistakenly thrown a random piece of road debris into my car, until I visited Harold at the junkyard to retrieve my belongings and saw that it was the Forester’s grill in the seat. (I kept the grill.)
- The police officer who reported to the scene initially talked to me while I was standing on a curb, looming above him. The curb exaggerated the difference in our sizes: He was about 5’7″ and trim, while I’m 6’2″ and oafish. Hope he doesn’t think I’m trying to intimidate him by standing up here, I thought. Then I considered stepping off the curb, but was worried I’d bump into him. I ended up slouching a little and concentrating on keeping my voice, which was threatening to shake like my hands already were, slow and calm. Some intimidator I am.
The timing of Harold’s death—so soon after I’d articulated what the Forester meant to me—has remained in my mind as much as the wreck itself. The obvious lesson from the incident’s timing is to never write about the things you care for.
But the better lesson is to always write about the things you care for, because some guy in a Mustang could kill one of them later today. I was too bullheaded and lazy to learn this while my parents were fighting their terminal illnesses, but the SUV they left me got it through. Thanks, Harold.
And welcome to the Steger Sector, yet-to-be-named replacement Forester.