He wondered what it must have been like back in the day. Rolling off of the assembly line and into the shiny showroom, buyers admiring her graceful lines, ladies in fashionable dresses and wearing white gloves, men in proper suits and sporting their fedoras. Who would have been the first to drive her off of the lot?
Duke Ellington is playing on the brand new radio as his mind drifts.
And he wonders what places this forgotten automobile had seen in her long life? Had it been an ordinary one, going to and from home and work, or had its first owner had the luxury of time, energy, money, and a romantic eye to the horizon? What had been this car’s fate back in 1938?
His thoughts travelled to a world long faded from view and far away that evening in the empty car lot.
He could begin to see the older man shaking hands with the new buyers of his modest home, somewhere near Taos, New Mexico. Yes, that’s it. Now, his wife is smiling at their fresh possibilities, their Airedale Terrier jumping willingly into the back seat as they drive off into the dust and on down to places yet to be discovered. He’d deposited the royalty check from his last novel and now it was time for the two to explore.
Finally, the line approached and off they were, unencumbered with regret, second thoughts, or the slightest doubt. Dues had been quietly paid over the years and no-one had been betrayed in their quest to live free. Oh, certainly, there were times when the floor seemed soft like quicksand and their vision obscured with distraction, but somehow, they found a way to lean forward in the direction of their dreams and the day had finally come.
Reaching in the back seat, the woman opened the case to her prized violin, brought it to the front and began to play an inspiring melody that seemed to match the moment perfectly. Looking to her, he noticed tears running down her cheek as she settled in to her instrument, her white scarf flowing in the wind along with the notes in the air. Rare, they knew, that such freedom could lift their souls so effortlessly.
“Hey there, she’s a beauty isn’t she?”, exclaimed the salesman. “Sure is. I’ve just got to wonder what she’s seen in her long life.”
“An old lady called me a few weeks back and said she had something she thought I might be interested in, something that had been gathering dust for years. Imagine that! I’m closing up, but you’re welcome to stay. Just shut the gate behind you when you leave. Oh! And here’s my card.”
He smiled and turned away as the salesman returned back to his office in the warehouse, turning off, one by one, the bright lights outside. The breeze picked up a bit and there was a sudden chill in the evening air.
Returning to his daydream,
The young, Bolivian child looked up and turned to see a plume of dust winding its way across the altiplano. Cars were rare in 1938 and the sound it made was quite unusual. The closer it came, the more excited he became. And as it neared, it slowed down and stopped along the old, dirt road. Roosters fluttering their wings by the mud brick hut near the road.
He could see two people in good spirits with a large piece of paper in hand.
“Excuse me please, child, could you tell me in what direction the village of Challapata may be?”
The excitement in the little boy was contagious as he pointed with great enthusiasm in the general direction of where they would need to go. Mount Sajama was beginning to reveal herself in all of her glory as though rising magically from the far-distant horizon.
Bidding him farewell, they continued down the primitive, lonely road to their next day’s paradise and before long the land was once again still, save for the sounds of crows above.
“She’s had a great life”, came the voice from behind. Turning around, he found a beautiful older woman, half sad, but somehow come alive, her long, gray hair flowing in the gentle breeze, a note clasped in her hands.
“I can only imagine”, he said as he walked slowly over to her. “Did you know the owners?”
“Yes, I certainly had. They used to live in New Mexico years ago, when they decided to sell it all and travel down to South America. Had a wonderful, carefree time for almost a year.”
Stumbling back as he felt himself get a bit dizzy, recovering quickly to see if he wasn’t dreaming.
“My word… really?”
“Yes, dear. I can tell you all about it if you have a little time”, the evening sun revealing a weathered face filled with stories to tell, sad eyes almost, but a gentle and inviting look to the old woman.
“Of course! Please do.”
And in her wistful way, she began to unfold a wonderful story of exploration, of dreams, of writing poetry on the beach, of quaint villages and wonderful, simple restaurants along their route to the tip of South America. He’d been the love of her life and theirs had only grown sweeter with time. Rare, she knew.
So when the illness was diagnosed the year before, they understood that they had little time remaining and so it was that they had embarked on their grand adventure to the end.
The old woman’s voice was strangely comforting as she told her story. The sun was getting ready to disappear, casting its growing shadow on where they stood. Turning to the old car, he asked her,
“It must have been a magnificent chapter in your lives…”
No response. And as he turned around to ask again, she was gone. Disoriented, he looked everywhere and could not imagine how she could have vanished so quickly in the open space and then he noticed a piece of paper left under the left windshield wiper; something not there the moment before.
Carefully unfolding the note, it read,
“When the sun has set, no candle can replace it”, a serpentine line drawn from the words into a violin being lifted by two hearts.
Leaning on the old car, he wondered what had just happened. Had he imagined it all? Maybe though, perhaps… maybe not. More and more, he was surrendering to the notion that there were no coincidences in life, just the occasional guides along the way if we should ever slow our thoughts and open up our minds.
[Image: Icon4x4.com and filtered through the Prisma app for artistic effect.]