My brother bought two cars from me. The first, my first car I ever owned, a used white Datsun 210. I’d purchased it after graduation from Iowa State. A 5-speed, and I adored it. Having grown up for a time in Germany, I dreamed of driving the Autobahn—someday. Till then, driving for me was all about speed. My Datsun was dependable, making it back and forth from a Chicago suburb to Ames, Iowa monthly to see my boyfriend until we broke up. Then I drove it to Atlanta where I lived for ten months. The only issue I had with the car was the pesky gasket that blew driving through the mountains near Chattanooga. The heater on, kept the engine cooled. 210 made it back to Chicago, and living in Lincoln Park, I discovered I didn’t need a car—buses and L’s and subways dependable.
Hours after I sold the car to my brother, my mother called. “Didn’t you hear the muffler dragging as you drove it to Champaign Urbana?” I didn’t tell her, I couldn’t hear much of anything on I-57 with the windows down, Bruce Hornsby on the CD blaring.
Several years later, when I needed another car, I bought a red Toyota Tercel—no frills, reliable, I the second owner. It was a good car. And when I moved to California, it climbed the mountains heading west with gusto.
Before my brother bought my Tercel, he crashed the Datsun head-on into an embankment in Portland, Oregon. Calling him in the hospital, I had to demand a nurse put him on the phone. Curious how she didn’t explain why he had no phone in his room.
“What do you want,” he snarled.
“Are you okay?” I said. He hung up.
And after some thinking, I realized with dread, he must be locked in a mental ward. Second wife had left him. The rehab had worn off.
I was hesitant to sell him my Tercel—a box of a car, my friend. But my brother assured me nothing would befall the Tercel, he wasn’t sad anymore.
And yet, on New Year’s Day, just months after the title exchange, Mom called. The Tercel, she said, had met its end when my brother, drunk, had left the keys and his wallet unlocked in his driveway on New Year’s Eve. “The police found it burned out in a field on the outskirts of Portland, not far from his home.”
What was worse? The state of my brother, or the demise of my beloved Datsun 210 and my Red Toyota Tercel?