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Out of Dodge

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My truck died last month. Breaking the news to friends has felt like a death in the family. "I'm so sorry for your loss," one said in earnest.

I never expected the hardest breakup of my twenty-four years to be with a temperamental piece of machinery that gave me trouble but mostly got me around for the better part of a decade, but, well, here we are.

For a while, I hated the truck, a hunter green 1993 Dodge Dakota. My dad inherited it after his father passed away in 2006, around the time I started driving. Behind the wheel in Cary, I worried I'd be branded a redneck, so I slapped it with stickers to deflect such notions—a Peace Frog, a Coexist sticker from a crotchety history teacher, another that said "Choose Local Music." Really, the only social trouble the truck ever encountered was when a few high school classmates decided to use its bed as their personal trash dumpster for a school year.

But I grew to adore the truck and its quirks. The truck and I helped countless friends move, promises of gas money, pizza, and beer unfulfilled all these years later. Together, we felt useful. It delivered mobility, fostered my independence. During the spring, summer, and fall, I'd cruise with the windows down, the stereo all the way up. I embraced the cassette revival because the twenty-three-year-old truck had no CD player, let alone a USB port.

We did not always get along. The tape deck sometimes screeched and wailed, even eating my tapes. (Des Ark's Everything Dies was its fitting final casualty.) It has stranded me in mud and on ice. A windshield wiper blade once bailed as I plowed through a terrible Fourth of July thunderstorm. For a few months in 2014, I kept a hammer in the cab to beat a fussy battery terminal into shape. The gas mileage was terrible. Most of the friends who mourned the truck with me have, at some point, also received some sort of S.O.S. related to its failures.

The truck sputtered to its death in the most inconvenient way, while I was two hours from home and working at a festival. Getting it back to Durham was a teary ordeal. It's fixable but in need of a new transmission that won't be cheap. I decided it was time for a change, for something on which I could depend. Maybe I'll like it more than that fitful, wonderful, pain-in-the-ass little truck. But you never forget your first love.

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