Forgotten

Rain streaks his windshield in the darkness. It's not the first storm he's weathered outside the protection of a garage, nor will it be the last. At least it's not hail, but even that he would wordlessly endure.

No, it's not the weather that has him down—it's the neglect that comes with having aged past one's usefulness.

Much time has passed since the last dredges of fuel evaporated from his tank and more still since his headlights dimmed for the last time. In the early years, he occupied the hours with dreams of being re-discovered. Indeed, other cars have come and gone—antiques, destined for remodel and restoration. With time, he's come to accept that's not his fate. He's commonplace, too old and yet not old enough to stand out.

Even the chrome emblem proclaiming his make—his identity— has long since dropped away and been lost somewhere in the dirt that now reaches midway up his rims, dirt that on dry, dusty days swirls and settles around him in silent condemnation. Tonight, it turns to mud and sucks him downward.

The days have passed in a relentless progression, leaching the color from his paint at an almost imperceptible pace. What was bright and shiny is now faded and bleached.

Last summer a family of field mice made their home in his interior, but they've long since moved on. Once in a while a lone grasshopper settles on his hood, warming itself in the sun. Dubious company, he'll admit.

At one time, he would have splattered an insect on his windshield and not thought twice about it. These days, he's glad for such an insignificant visitor and feels a pang when its wings carry it elsewhere.

What he longs for most, though, is the touch of his creators, to bring pleasure to their expressions as he once did. He's been the joy of a newly married couple, tin cans clinking merrily behind him. He's safely transported a burgeoning family to events and functions, before the advent of seatbelts. He recalls well the pride in the oldest teen's smile when the keys were passed down to the next generation.

There were hard times too: a broken starter, a blown head gasket, and the time when that same teen forgot to set the parking brake and he rolled down an incline, through the cattails, and into the pond. It had taken a tow truck to get him back out again, and the smell of swamp had clung to him even after a good washing. Somehow, the passage of time has added a sheen of nostalgia to even these memories.

The wind coursing through his open windows and the casual kicks against his tires, he misses these. He longs for the smooth vibration of his engine as it consumes and transforms high-octane fuel into shear power.

Realistically, he knows even if his engine could start again, it would not be smooth anymore. His age isn't in his dented body and broken mirrors alone. No, he can feel it deep inside him—rotted rubber hoses, rusted fittings, and the grit of years—his soul itself wasting away with neglect. Yes, he misses those days that can never return.

Most of all, he misses having a purpose.

He recalls the naiveté of his youth and the many occasions he thought he'd hit bottom: his first rock chip, his first fender-bender, and the day a newer, shinier model took the favored stall in the garage. He can't help but see the folly of it now. He recognizes those were just bumps in the road, not the end of the road itself. He's surprised to find rock bottom isn't rock at all. It isn't the hard collision and sharp stop he always imagined. It's more the viscous black ooze at the bottom of a stagnant pond than the washed stone riverbed.

The emotions are dimmer now, their edge lost over time. The sharp pangs of the past trouble him no more, and in their place he finds a silent resignation. Willing or no, he must relinquish the road to a younger generation.

He has all the time in the world to think these days, to ruminate on his travels in younger years. He recalls one journey in particular. The old man's gaunt form barely made an impression in the passenger seat; his sigh as he patted the hood while his son retrieved a cardboard box of possessions from the trunk left a far greater impression.

The younger man offered a steadying hand, which the senior waved away, and the walker, with its bright green tennis ball feet, was the only thing preventing the old man's fall as his unsteady steps led him into the home.

There had been a sense of finality in that farewell, and now he suspects he finally understands: this is what it means to be forgotten.

The rain lets up as the sun peeks over the eastern horizon, and he settles a little lower in the silt.