For the first few weeks I lived in Mississippi, I drove a Honda Accord. It was a great car, a crimson-magenta exterior and black leather inside. I was often surprised at how fast it could go.
But it was a car. And being a man with a car in Mississippi must be a lot like being a woman in New York without Louis Vuitton. You just don’t feel like you fit in.
At some point in the summer of 2010, my dad got a new truck, which, to me, meant one thing — I’m getting the Tacoma. It was sleek silver, had four doors, a hardcover top and a couple of those Toyota Racing Development Off Road stickers. It had running boards, a V-6 engine and a six-disc changer.
And now it was mine.
The first morning I drove it to work in Mississippi, my co-workers, all women, complimented it. They asked if it was mine, and called it beautiful. I probably goofily grinned.
In Mississippi, I drove it to football games on Friday nights, to Wal-Mart for groceries, and even tailed fire trucks and ambulances to house fires and car crashes.
When I moved back to Alabama, I did the same, steering it to wherever there was news. I navigated a residential area of south Trussville, where cops were searching for an attempted murderer, a career criminal who had beaten a police officer and stolen his car. I conducted phone interviews from the truck’s front seat, recording many people who laughed, and some who cried. I waited in the truck for city council meetings, school board retreats, football games and Habitat for Humanity key ceremonies.
In March 2012, I nervously waited in the truck for a girl to show up at a spring carnival for our first date. We had fun, popping balloons with darts and riding a stomach-churner called Moby Dick. We saw a movie after the carnival, and she even rode to the theater with me in the truck.
Later that year, just before Christmas, that girl, who had become my fiance, and I were in a wreck in downtown Birmingham. Some knucklehead from California without insurance, driving his brother-in-law’s vehicle, turned left across a busy intersection. I tried to veer hard to the right, to avoid hitting the man, but we collided. It spun him all the way around. No people were injured, thank goodness, but my truck’s front apron had to be re-weld, among other repairs to the front fender. I drove my granddad’s Army-green Nissan truck for a week, and I missed the Tacoma every day.
Other than the one accident, the Tacoma has never been in a crash. It has never been stopped for rolling through a stop sign, or going too fast on the interstate. For the longest time, the interior smelled of Bobs Sweet Stripes Soft Peppermints, which I kept a stash of in the console’s cup holders.
It has inched its way down icy roads, pulled onto the shoulder during rainstorms and had the fuel door cover protecting the gas cap filled with shaving cream by mischievous groomsmen.
The Tacoma has seen many places in its more than 120,000 miles. It has seen the green mountains of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Ellijay, Georgia. It has seen Escambia Bay in Florida and a lakefront home in Andalusia, Alabama. It has carried friends through the drive-thru at Krispy Kreme late on a Friday night, a shotgun-riding dog to the baseball park, furniture from one house to another to another, boxes of new books to signing events, and an old chest freezer full of okra up Interstate 65.
The Tacoma has also heard many different things. Its speakers have blared an assortment of musical genres. There has been a rock band shouting about all the small things, a rapper hilariously rhyming about how the FCC won’t let him be, and a country star singing about how a girl leans the seat back, steals his ball cap and pulls it down over her blue eyes.
I have had this truck for almost seven years of its eleven-year life, and it is starting to show its age. It seems to need more and more TLC. It has needed more brake repairs, new struts and an air conditioner compressor. We have put hundreds and hundreds of dollars into this truck, and now has come the time to sell it and move on to something new. We got a pretty good deal through a used-car retailer, and we will be moving on to a mid-size SUV.
Recently, I was driving the truck for one of the last times. I was listening to Kip Moore’s debut album when the third track on the CD began to play. The final line of the song seemed appropriate.
“Ain’t nothin’ ‘bout it luck, there’s somethin’ ‘bout a truck.”