While mourning a car once it is gone isn’t exactly Jackson Biko’s style, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love her to the fullest as long as they are together and get a bit nostalgic if their paths ever cross.
I saw the second car I owned in the parking at Sierra Burger and Wine in Westlands. I was getting off an Uber because I was planning to have a few drinks. I know this is strange but I know all my cars from their posterior. I knew it was her even before I saw the number plate. When you drive a car for more than two years, your blood and its oil have a rare psychic relationship. It’s a fluid relationship. You just know. It was a Honda CRV- 2003. The door driver’s door was a mess and it guzzled fuel, but nothing could separate us.
I walked over and walked around it, inspecting it, admiring it. Her headlights were fogged out. She could have used a paint job. The spare-wheel carrier at the back was all banged up. I bent and ran a finger on a scratch on the left side of the rear bumper. I could feel the pain in my spine. My estate security accesss ticker was still on the windscreen five years later! She had grown old but in a dignified way. Like Meryl Streep. The owner had decided to tint its windows. As I cupped my face against the front window to peer inside I heard a voice behind me. The security guy was inquiring – rather aggressively- if the car was mine. “Yes,” I said because, come on, you never really divorce from your beloved. “I mean, no. It used to be my car.” He asked me if it was stolen and I said no, I sold it. He looked at me suspiciously and kept a wary eye on me.
There was a time in 2012 that I drove the car to the sleeping Moran lodge in Elementaita, it had rained heavily that morning and we got stuck. I had waited in the car for help, staring out at the wet hills beyond, listening to the radio until my batteries died and silence ate everything. It was both scary and romantic, being out there in the conservancy, seeing the sun
slowly set behind the hills.
“Who is the owner of this car?” I inquired. The person he described wasn’t the person I had sold the car to. The buyer was an old Kikuyu farmer from Nakuru who had come to Yaya Center casually carrying 400,000 shillings in a black paper bag. He was accompanied with his son, there to make sure that daddy was not walking into a Nairobi treachery.
Inside the restaurant, I located the man who fit the description. He was in his 50s, wearing a silky shirt, sitting at a corner. He was with his wife, I assumed, because she looked stern and every time she pointed at the food on his plate with her fork
he ate it. I stared at them the whole night debating whether to walk over, but his wife scared me. Now, I’m not those guys who give their cars names, neither do I get overly attached to them. But when I have a car, I’m completely in love with her. I never miss a service. I buy it accessories. I don’t add ugly rims on it. And I have it cleaned daily. I never drive dirty cars. In fact, I judge people who drive dirty cars while they wear clean shirts. People who have trash in their cars. Trash and dust and used paper cups and serviettes. I also don’t like cars that stink. But when I sell my car I usually forget about her the moment I hand over the logbook. I have no loyalty to cars. Cars are like wine openers, you buy the best you can but if it gets lost you don’t die over that, you buy another one.
At the end of the evening, I followed the couple outside and waylaid them just as the man slipped his key to open the door. I introduced myself and told them I sold that car to a gentleman five years ago. Turned out that was his cousin. We spoke as I
sneaked a peek inside the car. It was like looking into the soul of an old friend who has had a bit of a rough ride in life. The wife glared at me from inside. “Hello mama,” I waved to show that I wasn’t about to thrust a gun in her husband’s ribs.
To be honest, I never thought I’d see her again. I thought the farmer would take it to his massive farm in Nakuru and use it to carry goats and potatoes because he had said he wanted something strong that could help him on the farm. My heart had sunk. I wanted to suggest that he gets a donkey instead. But there we were again, five years on, brought together by fate and chance.
When the gentleman got in and slammed the door, I distinctly remembered the sound of that door; a deep and hollow thud, like you were closing the doors of a tomb.