I recently had to say goodbye to a couple of old friends. This post is dedicated to them.
I bought my first car in September of 2008. I’ll never forget the date, September 13, 2008, about a month before my birthday. Prior to this date, my mind was fixed in that I only spent money on the bare essentials, in that frugality was top priority. Having been a part-time college student living at home, this made sense. But I was no longer that student, and was working full-time and living on my own. I had to tell myself that it was OK to spend some money on something that would make me happy.
The TSX made me happy, and then some. It became a hobby for me: learning about cars, how each subsystem of a car works, what I could do to squeeze out more performance, what I could do to keep it in top shape. I bought lightweight wheels to improve aesthetics as well as acceleration, bought high performance tires to improve grip, bought springs to lower the car’s center of gravity and improve handling. I learned about ways to keep the paint looking like it had just rolled off of the assembly line. I took pride in knowing more about my car than the average person, and keeping my car in better condition than the average person. When it came time to turn in the car at lease end, I decided to lease another and transfer the parts to it.
A year after leasing my second TSX, I am no longer working and I am planning to travel and move overseas. Keeping the car no longer makes sense. The reality of the situation weighs on my mind, and I am unable to sleep. I get out of bed and go down to the garage to take my car out for a drive, to spend some final quality time with it. I try to take in the things that I had taken for granted up until this point, things like the smell of the leather every time I step into the car, things like the growl of the engine when I hit VTEC, and things like the car just looking so damn good.
It is 4 AM; the morning’s fog and mist adds to my contemplative mood. I drive my car around the beautiful city of San Francisco, knowing that soon I will not have the car, and that soon I will no longer be in this city where I grew up. I drive around the entire town, recalling images from yesteryear, from taking the MUNI to school every morning to eating out with my friends for the first time in Chinatown, intermixing those memories with the feelings I get when stomping on the accelerator pedal in first gear. At 4 in the morning, it is as if the streets are mine to do with as I please. I can even step out and take photos while the engine is still running. I take the photos not knowing that this would be the final night we spend together.
On the last day, I am nervous because I do not know how much the dealer will give me for my car. I sit in the lounge and try to watch the Olympics, I pace back and forth between the new cars on the showroom floor. Finally, my salesperson gives me the number, and I let out a sigh of relief. My efforts to keep the car in top condition have not been in vain. But when I turn around and take one last look at my beloved car, I find that I loved it more than I realized. I did not expect saying goodbye to be so difficult. This was the car that I drove every day to work, that I painstakingly maintained, that I raved to all my friends about, a part of my life, a part of my identity. Why would I not expect saying goodbye to be difficult?
Knowing that I was now carless, my salesperson offered me a ride to the BART station. As we pulled out of the dealer lot, I said goodbye to my car without regret, satisfied and comforted knowing that we had spent that last night together.
It was an early July afternoon on a warm, sunny day. I was sitting on the porch of my in-laws’ house with Brutus, the family dog, a Boxer. I would throw the frisbee across the yard, he would chase after it, chew on it for a while, and then bring it back. After a few rounds, I’d draw some water from the tap into his bowl, and he’d lap it up thirstily. Then, he would push his head into my leg, lean his whole body on me and sit on my foot, shedding his dog hair all over my pants.
He did this every time I came to visit. It was very endearing, sort of like a child grabbing your hand and putting his in yours because he wants you to hold it. It was like he was telling me, “hey, good to see you again, let me show you that you’re part of my pack”.
On this day I was part of his pack for a long time. We watched many cars drive by, and many of the drivers would smile at us, probably thinking that Brutus was my dog. The fact is, I have never owned a dog, and probably never will. I cannot tolerate dog hair all over my clothes, my home, or my car. Normally, I don’t even play with Brutus for that long because I can’t wait to go wash my hands. On this day, for some reason, I wanted to spend more time and enjoy the afternoon with him.
It was two weeks before I visited my in-laws again. Normally, Brutus would perk up when he detected our approach and run over to greet us, but now he only barely glanced at us. When he finally did get up, we saw that he was severely emaciated, and drooling all over. We were told that he hadn’t eaten in over seven days. After taking him to the vet, x-rays revealed that he had a blockage of the esophagus which could have been something he swallowed, or cancer. We had to take him to a specialist to find out.
At the specialist’s office, we learned that we had few options. Because of the period of time that had elapsed, even if it was a foreign object in his esophagus the amount of inflammation would have made it difficult to remove surgically and, even if removed, scar tissue would form and once again create a blockage. The cancer prognosis was equally discouraging. It was a risky procedure for a healthy dog, let alone a severely emaciated one, and we could tell from the doctor’s expression that the outlook was not good. In the end, we knew what we had to do for our friend.
We spent a few final moments with Brutus. Ever since he got sick, he had been lethargic and could barely walk, but somehow he managed to walk over to me and push his head into my leg one last time. Did he know that the end was near? Was he giving us permission to end his life?
The doctor came back in with a catheter in Brutus’ hind leg. We laid him down on the doggy bed and petted him softly and gave the doctor our permission to proceed. He solemnly gave the first injection. Brutus let out a sigh. We kept petting him, trying to make him as comfortable as possible. The doctor slowly gave the second injection, and then the third. A few moments later, Brutus was gone.
I had never seen death like this before. It seemed to happen quickly; one moment Brutus was here, and the next he wasn’t. His body still felt warm, he still had the dog smell, and when I petted him it felt no different than before. We wrapped him up in a blanket and took him home, where we buried him in the same yard where we had played frisbee just a couple of weeks ago.
Now, I understand why dogs are referred to as man’s best friend. I was not his owner, yet Brutus still treated me like his best friend, even at the end. He was the closest thing I’ve had to owning a dog. True loyalty and true affection that is easy to see, with no pretense or ulterior motive embodied in a furry four-legged beast, I will never forget my good friend Brutus, and I will be forever grateful that I was able to spend that last warm, sunny afternoon with him. RIP Brutus.