As part of a never-ending battle to organize the garage, I encountered an artifact related to something I had hoped to forget: the Malloper.
Last week, in a one-sided negotiation that came on the heels of multiple price reductions, the mistake from Korea at last found a new owner in Santa Ana—a town far, far away. A friend of mine connected with a mechanic shop in that largely upscale burg handled everything for me.
The arm’s length nature of the transaction was not an accident. After all of time and money I’d spent on what could reasonably be described as the worst car in Costa Rica I wanted two things: 1) for the new owner to receive a full, fair impartial disclosure of the Malloper’s…situation, and 2) most importantly, I never wanted to see the car again. A sale conducted by a mechanic in Santa Ana who held a power of attorney seemed like the best possible way to achieve my goals.
My friend called me to let me know that, after three months, he finally had an offer.
“You won’t like it,” he warned.
“As long as it’s not an exchange involving chickens or a piece of land on the beach owned by a distant relative, I’ll take it,” I replied.
“Ok. We’re putting the battery back in now for a test drive. I’ll let you know how it turns out,” he said.
I hung up, not entirely confident in the outcome. My friend had pulled the battery to save it from dying of neglect, but he and I were also very aware that the lack of a battery seriously cut down the odds of a spontaneous electrical fire (something the Malloper had already experienced).
A few hours later I received another call. It was done. The cash would arrive the next day, and the Malloper would never again drop a splash of oil or a mysterious, random bolt in my driveway.
I experienced a strange, surprising emotion. The best parallel I can think of is how you feel when you truly, finally reach the end of a relationship. Sure, it might’ve been dysfunctional, one-sided. There might be have been betrayal, even wanton disregard of your feelings. But parting is indeed such sweet sorrow.
“Do I really want to call him back and tell him I’m keeping the Malloper? For what I’m getting for it I might as well just park it behind the garage, cut the roof off and use it as a giant planter.”
I shook those ideas out of my head.
Thing #2 was with me when we drove down to Santa Ana a couple of days later to pick up the money. While Thing #2 had heard me talk at length about the sale of the Malloper it was, as usual, all new to him this day.
“So, we’re never going to see it again?” he asked.
“I hope not,” I replied.
I snuck a quick glance in the rearview mirror and saw his sad face. Thing #2 had never had to repair the Malloper. His primary memories were likely fond ones involving my lax rules for the car that allowed him to crawl all over the seats, and the roof, while performing experiments in the back—rules significantly different when it came to anything else I owned. Thing #2 probably didn’t remember when the Malloper had elected to die on the freeway on our way to the airport for a family vacation, or when the suspension had spontaneously fallen apart (twice), or the fire.
We pulled up in front of the shop and I stared at the spot where the Malloper had sat. In its place was a much newer, nicer car also for sale (I learned later that it was there for repairs because the owner of the used car lot entrusted to sell it instead used it for personal, off-road joyrides and destroyed the suspension—Pura Vida).
I waited somewhat patiently for Thing #2 to get out of the Narco mobile. His ability to drag out an exit due to the complete disappearance of his shoes is legendary. Rushing him, I’d learned, was counter-productive. As I waited I looked around the street, taking in the sights and sounds. My gaze ended at another auto shop directly across the street, and my heart skipped a beat.
There, lurking in the shadows, was my ex. From the distance, with the help of poor lighting, she looked great. I continued to stare at her as my friend the mechanic/salesman emerged from his shop and followed my eyes.
“Oh,” he laughed, “forgot to tell you that the buyer was the guy across the street!”
Thing #2, who had finally managed to put on his shoes, emerged from the Narco mobile and pointed across the street. “Look Daddy — the Malloper!”
I frowned at him, and the universe, then hustled everyone involved in my car so we could head to breakfast and put as much distance as possible between my ex and I. I tried not to think about it as I toyed with my food, but it did bother me at some level that I was going to see that cursed car every time I visited my friend in Santa Ana.
I could not help but sneak a glance across the street when we returned to the shop and was happy to see that the Malloper was gone. Perhaps, I thought, this other mechanic had already lost his patience and buried it in a shallow grave.
As my friend got out of my car he laughed and pointed at the intersection down the street. The Malloper sat idling at the stop sign. It wasn’t on fire and no parts dangled dangerously close to the ground. Instead, a small crowd of people was gathered around it as the new owner laughed and smiled as he showed off his prize.
I felt sick. Back in the relationship analogy: you generally want your ex to be happy—but you sure don’t want to see it. I had poured untold time and money into the Malloper and received only rejection in return. Seeing the Galloper running and making someone happy was akin to seeing your ex—the one who said she didn’t want kids—pushing a double stroller (with twins so small they still have that new baby smell) while holding hands with a man whose hair was better than yours on its best day.
Breakfast did its best to return to my mouth. I did not remember eating bile.
My friend, still giggling at my reaction, shut the door and went back to his shop. My inner turmoil and I drove towards the intersection where the Malloper was still receiving praise from the masses. The new Tico owner of the Malloper could not help but see my stare and gave me a curious look in return. I thought about stopping, getting out and telling him to guard his heart, and his wallet, lest he too suffer a series of betrayals. The Malloper’s headlights—the ones that are permanently cock-eyed and put out 23% of the light needed to see—caught my gaze.
It was time, they said, to move on.
I took that idea to heart and drove away. Now, with the aged, rusty radiator in front of me, I see that it was the right decision. I will indeed move on and think of the Malloper no more—right after we use the radiator as the backstop for bb gun target practice.