I’m deep into the eighth hour of the marathon road trip that ends with palm trees and clear Gulf waters.
Shiva the destroyer has been my shrill but effective co-pilot on this one, ensuring not only that I stay awake on the most treacherous spans of highway but also that my body be made almost entirely of the stress hormone cortisol by days end.
In between bouts of proving that long term exposure to others in confined spaces breeds contempt, we managed to reminisce about a story I’d long forgotten. The tale of the van.
In my mid twenties I had yet to master the art of living well and understanding basic concepts like how to plan for unforeseen accidents and heeding expiration dates on lunch meat- so when a series of bad to worse fender benders that finally culminated in a car crash took away my ability to get from point A to point B, I waited around for a solution to fall out of the sky.
When this didn’t happen, I got a very generous offer from my uncle-the use of his early 80s Ford super van. I had neither the balls nor the alternate plan required to turn down this mode of reliable and free transport- and so I became a van driver.
At first it felt like a marriage hastily arranged by old timey parents between you and a boy from their quaint European village of yesteryear. It was as if I’d appeared out of a wrinkle in a future time line to clumsily wrestle with this dark paneled beast and its purple velvet seating . The vague superiority complex caused by years of only child syndrome and an inflated sense of self had me taking back roads and parking a mile away from civilization to avoid being found out by the Nancy Drew of automobile shaming. But then something deep and resounding started happening inside of me every time I turned the key over and listened to the rev of its obnoxiously loud engine that rendered all occupants unable to communicate with sound- I began to fully appreciate its lumbering beauty.
What is not to love about rolling up to the curb in what effectively could be a fully functioning home?
It had bunks, a low swanky couch, a television, vcr and an eating area.
All you had to do was duck out for a bathroom break and a wash and all your worldly needs were met!
Soon though, like all things I embraced, I came to befoul and destroy them. The van became sad, untidy, a receptacle of discarded food cartons and dirty clothes. Strange odors stole its charm and made me less inclined to stretch out in the back to watch full house episodes instead of working. Eventually, my car repairs were finished and per my mothers insistence I took my uncles vehicle to get detailed and buffed before handing her back. Sad to see her go, but secure in the understanding that she would always be there if she was needed. Steadfast and true.
The simple beauty of the van was its unapologetic lack of cool . It served me well in my time of need and gave me something I sorely lack at this exact moment- as I write wedged between two Hardee’s fast food bags and my mothers gargantuan pocketbook- leg room and a crushed velvet body pillow to spoon.