Karma is the action of applying the lessons of the past to the present moment, in order to influence the future…
I could tell he had a soft heart, the kind of heart that cares for things that don’t have a heartbeat. There were two stacks of napkins set side-by-side on his desk; both indented with a circular outline, stained yellowish brown: proof of his tenderness. I imagined he’d taken the plants outside to water them and allow them to bask in the sun while he worked.
His plump, freckled fingers patiently fidgeted with the scanner, circa 1992. He wasn’t easily frustrated; his mind matched his heart.
“There’s a pin broken in here, so I’m sorry, it takes a while to thread the paper through. I have to trick it, slide it in this way and then it catches. We’re supposed to be updating our tech system soon, but who knows.” His voice matched his fingers; cushioned with patience.
“Have you tried right to left?” I suggested
“Ah, I’ve tried that. It’s harder that way.” He smiled.
He began searching for something, peeking under stacks of papers to his left. “I was off yesterday. I think someone had a party in my office, because I’m missing some papers, and my trash can is gone.”
“And those, too,” I pointed to the vacant napkins.
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t even notice. My plants are missing!” I witnessed the urge appear: he wanted to go find them, but he’s the type that focuses on the moment; everything else can wait.
As he thread the license and title registration documents through the scanner, I thought about how different this experience was from four years ago, when I bought the other car.
I was fraught with anxiety negotiating with the dishonest, misogynist manager and his incompetent messenger of salesman. I signed perforated loan documents that could unfurl from a three-story building and they’d still land in a stack. I drove away exhausted and depleted in a new car that I’d find out [three years later] was illegally altered by the car manufacturer to cut costs.
For four years, I’d been driving around in a vehicle built on lies and a postured veneer of reliability.
Every veneer erodes with time and the truth is always exposed. So, I was given an option: I could keep my car; they’d fix it and pay me a hefty restitution. Or, they’d buy back my car, write me a check and I’d be free to buy a different car.
I considered keeping it, but my children set me straight: “Mommy, they lied; people who lie, lie again. You can’t keep it.”
No, I couldn’t. What would that say about me? What example would I be setting for my children?
Someone once told me that a vehicle is a direct reflection of its driver: its internal and external workings are a representation of its driver’s mental, emotional and physical health. That certainly aligns with the past four years of my life: I’ve acted one way, but inside I’ve been feeling another, broken and confused. But, I don’t feel that way anymore: my inside and outside match. I’ve had to peel back the veneer this past year, shed it all; this ‘thing’, this car is the last physical connection to my old self, and the false identity that is no longer welcome in my life.
As I signed the last of the documents, I recognized the void of stress; my biggest concern was the whereabouts of the finance guy’s plants. I had a check in full, three stories less of paperwork to complete, and a car with one of the best reputations on the market.
The car shopping process, although tedious, was necessary. It reminded me of dating: shaking a lot of sweaty palms, engaging in agonizing small talk, trying to convince myself I could be happy with this guy or that one. And each time, despite what angle I squinted from, I couldn’t deny the truth: it wasn’t right, it wasn’t a match, so I’d walk away, again, empty handed.
Although, there was that first dealership I went to a couple months ago. I felt good, driving on the lot. The saleswoman waited by the door, she didn’t swarm my car as I put it in park. I approached her, offered my hand; her palm wasn’t sweaty and her smile was genuine. She didn’t push me, she knew what I wanted, and encouraged me to wait until she could produce it. She knew I’d go looking elsewhere, confident I’d be back. And, she was right: even though I knew she was the right one to help me, I still had to look elsewhere, because, it’s the only way to know, for sure. So, with every hand I shook in the days between, I was reassured over and over, that hers was the truest, the one.
This past Saturday, after another full day of searching and purell-ing, I decided to go to her, one more time. She was waiting outside, again, as though she’d been expecting me.
“I thought I’d come back and see if maybe there’s something new on the lot. Is there?” I was equal parts desperate and surrendered; a real combination.
“Let’s walk and see.”
And there, between two cars that were almost right, was the one. It wasn’t the color I’d imagined I’d be drawn to, but I was, like a magnet. It was perfect; it matched; we matched.
“Congratulations, you’re a new car owner!” He handed me the thin envelope of documents, balled up his pudgy, patient fingers, exposing his knuckles for the first time, and gave me a slow motion fist bump.
“Thank you so much! I hope you find your plants.”
“I’m going to go look for them right now! Enjoy the car.”