The car is old, second hand and gray or beige. It falls apart at regular intervals, bucks and jerks with faulty spark plugs, makes her cry at the cost of its constant repairs. She needs it in order to work and she works in order to keep it running.
She is just past thirty, sparkling true-blue eyes, rosy cheeks, a tendency to be shocked easily and a fear of poverty. She admits to no fire in the belly but she is a good friend, stalwart and true.
One month before she turned thirty, she shook a fist at the sky, vowed a man would need to be sent to her – a good decent one. He arrives, an online penpal within a matter of weeks. They correspond without speaking for a month before he invites her to his city an hour and a half away for a concert. She nearly refuses. Several friends send her email messages ALL IN CAPS and she agrees to go, nervous.
He invites her to a wedding and they swing-dance, barefooted, outside. They have mutual friends. Not only passion develops but domestic inclinations and sharing of long-held secrets.
He appears at my door at her side in the gloom of a late autumn evening. She sports red antlers and he has an elf hat on. I fold laundry while we all talk and laugh. He looks like a long ago friend from high school, and he likes her a lot. He’s bringing her home to meet his family on the coast over the holidays. Twice he talks of being unashamed: about crying at good movies and about being a longtime Leafs fan. He tells a story of sitting next to a shivering pale teen on a bus – a boy who had ridden two days straight from Winnipeg to Halifax, only to discover it had been a mistake, and so had climbed on the next bus back – and sharing the pillows he had received at Christmas with the boy.
I watch secretly from my window as they leave the next morning. She is already in the car; he is folding his frame into the passenger seat. I see them readying for takeoff, and then one of them remembers something and he gets out and runs back inside, half-bent, eager. He runs out again in the same way, his posture inclining toward her, not wanting to keep her waiting. He buckles up and I watch them turn to each other and kiss, quickly but naturally, a talisman before leaving, before the little gray-beige sedan takes them on their way together.