Over the weekend, an ad popped up on Craigslist, as they often do, of a man looking to sell his Saturn. That in itself isn’t terribly remarkable. It’s the scene that he’s leaving behind that piqued my interest.
Here’s what he wrote to try to woo buyers:
I’m am firm on the cash and will only take a Saturn Sky for trade. I am finished with the car scene and racing scene. Time to spend more quality time with the family. I can throw in the trailer for extra $700. There will be no part out. Ill keep driving it until it blows up and crush it if it never sells.
Here’s a screenshot of the ad, in case it gets removed.
The seller leaves off after this one paragraph—leaving me hanging more desperately than I was at the end of The Matrix: Reloaded. I screamed into the void for answers. And after I was done with that, I made up some of my own.
The smell of E85 fuel hung thick in the morning air. The five-point harness wrapped around his body snugly. Feathering the throttle absently, he gazed at the familiar stripped out interior. Felt how the vibrations of the engine seemed to settle into his very bones.
Fingers resting lightly on the VMS short throw shifter, he nosed the turbo Saturn up to the starting line before glancing over to his right at his opponent for the first time. He scoffed.
The kid was sixteen, maybe seventeen. Slicked up and gelled hair in the front. Chewing his lip. Kept glancing over at the turbo Saturn. His blue Civic, with the mismatched body panels that didn’t quite fit right and the Fast and Furious-styled rear wing, belied how green he truly was. Oh, well. It was his funeral.
By now everyone was watching the flag. He adjusted his grip on the turbo Saturn’s Grant steering wheel, the small tremors of excitement beginning to thrum from his heart. This was always his favorite part. The breathlessness of the seconds before the start. When the only thing he could hear was the beat of his pulse and the sound of his breath.
But then! In a blur of movement, the flag flashed and he reacted instinctually. Releasing the clutch, he gripped wheel tightly, feeling it trying to leap about in his hands as he smashed the accelerator to the floor and the power surged through the turbo Saturn’s front wheels.
He didn’t even need to look down. He knew when it was time to change. Slam the shifter into second. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a surrendering smear of blue pass out of sight—he’d already left the kid behind. The race was in the bag.
The turbo Saturn blew past the finish, where its winning time flashed up on the big board for all to see: 9:25.
One hundred and fifty—maybe even 200—races he’d won this way. He wasn’t sure. He’d lost count. He wasn’t doing it for the money—though it certainly helped with the bills at times.
No, it was the feeling of absolute peace that overtook his senses when the landscape was ripping by outside in the triple digits. Nine seconds isn’t a large amount of time by any means, but when he was alone in the turbo Saturn and shooting toward the finish, time seemed to slow. The little nagging things that everyone wakes up with in the morning fell away until all that was left was one single string of consciousness tying him to the car.
Speed, that was his drug. But it wasn’t speed achieved in any old car, it had to be a Saturn, one of the ones that his brother built in Spring Hill. His brother was killed in a manufacturing accident right before the economic crisis hit, but the company could afford to hire better lawyers that nearly bled his family dry, so in the end they were forced to drop the issue. Now, racing was how he stayed close with his brother. It helped take the edge off the pain.
That high usually stayed with him all morning, even after the pulled off the strip and parked a little ways away to greet the small throng of fans that hung around these events, waiting to see the turbo Saturn obliterate another unworthy opponent.
And that was when he saw her.
She was leaning against a tree behind a parked Foxbody Mustang, looking at the turbo Saturn curiously. He soon realized that she wasn’t looking at the turbo Saturn, she was looking at him.
The adrenaline rush gave him an extra boost of confidence so he walked over to her. She eyed his progress with a small smile on her lips. She wore her hair in braids.
She grew up around these parts, he found out, but this was the first time she’d been down to the strip. Was her boyfriend racing today? No, she just came to watch.
They parted ways eventually, he with a lighter heart than he’d felt in a long time and her with a scrap of paper with a phone number scribbled on it in her pocket.
Things progressed quickly. She loved the turbo Saturn and he could feel himself falling for her. She heard and understood his demons, but rather than shun them, she welcomed them with open arms. She worked to make them her own so he wouldn’t be alone.
Being with her, he felt his soul unfreeze in places that he didn’t even know it had been frozen. The speed, he realized, had only been a topical salve. As the months went by, he realized that he didn’t need it as much as he used to
He took the turbo Saturn out early one morning when there was still dew on the grass. The old girl rumbled and growled like she always did, but with a note of finality.
“You know what’s coming, don’t you?” he asked. “You know it’s time.”
He was ready to let her go. Let her go because he had something bigger and better to focus on now. He had meaning.
He sat in silence for a moment, thinking about his brother, who would have been 45 this year. Selling the turbo Saturn felt like leaving his brother behind—unless he could get a new Saturn. A Saturn Sky. That would do.
His racing days were over, but that didn’t mean he should also forget where he came from.
Above, the clouds parted and the sun shone, promising a beautiful day.