Let Me Explain: Baby, you can’t drive my car

First cars are like first loves. Let me explain.

I’ll never forget him: The AC smelled like catfish during the summer. The automatic locks didn’t work when it rained. The driver’s-side door wouldn’t open for two months, and one of the backseat shoulder straps didn’t retract.

This is no Shakespearean sonnet, but, despite its shortcomings and brake problems, that ’93 Honda Accord got a whole lot of loving-probably because I didn’t know any better.

First loves of the human kind, those loves that change you and cause you to absentmindedly skip meals, are just as faulty: They’re disappointing, stubborn and break down right as you’re beginning to get into the groove. And, most of the time, no love mechanic in the world can mend a broken relationship.

But a first car is superior. I truly thought that, besides Clint Howard, it was possible that I was the coolest person in the world, driving my car barefoot down I-65. No matter the rust, rips or past wreckage, a first car is perfection for a new driver. And my hand-me-down Accord was just that.

Though it had been my dad’s car before he upgraded to a baby-blue BMW midlife crisis-in which the rest of my family and I are not allowed-my black Accord felt as though it had been made for me and me alone; my body fit perfectly against the torn, gray seats, the mixed tape blaring early ’90s one-hit wonders, Journey and old blues songs.

That car and I were war buddies, united and bruised by our battles. There was a dent in one of the back doors from when a pain-in-the-ass junior violently humped the car as I attempted to drive away from our high school parking lot. The radio antenna was torn off after a couple of football players objected to an article I’d written in the school newspaper about their embarrassing season.

In the end, it simply became too hard. He couldn’t stop when I wanted to brake, and something inside of him wasn’t lined up right. The real sorrow is that first cars, like first loves, are temporary. Both eventually bite the big one called either “junkyard” or “the next foolish girl.” In my case, my first car went to my brother, who was never grateful for its greatness until he put a hole the size of a basketball into the front fender, rendering him carless for weeks. Sophomores driven around by their moms are not cool.

After you, no one quite appreciates the car that saw you through numerous attempts at a permit and many tears when pulled over by an unsympathetic police officer. The memories made in that car exist for you alone, and different memories await to be formed by the next owner. Giving your first car or first love away means watching someone else take poor care of something you once loved, never driving or riding it quite like you did.

Maybe we don’t have only one first love; maybe we have many, and we’re always starting over with someone or something new. There are always going to be problems and challenges; they’ll just be different problems and challenges.

Driving in my 2001 updated version of my former sweet ride makes me think of late-night interstate drives in the summer after curfew, guitar riffs wafting out the open driver’s window, involuntarily steering the turns on the path home. The car smelled like catfish, but everything was rosy to me.

Katie Lewis is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.