Sit on your front porch for a while and before long you’ll see one drive by. Brown, red, white, gray. Trucks with beds loaded down with lawn mowers and weed eaters, hydraulic pumps and furniture on the move. Trucks shiny and sparkly that have never been loaded down with a thing except friends, going to the next party. I’ve been noticing trucks more than usual lately, maybe because my husband is just about to get a new one.
“You know,” I said to a friend as we sat on my front porch last summer and watched his truck barrel down the road then pull in the drive, “He’s had that truck longer than he’s had me.”
My friend expressed no surprise or shock, probably because the truck shows every one of its years. From where we sat you could see a neat but thick puzzle of black duct tape keeping one of the rear lights attached to the tailgate. And there was a suspicious rattling that started off frantic and bombastic — think toddler with cymbals — then as the truck slowed the sound went low and deep, like one of the coughs you spend all winter trying to avoid.
If this truck was an animal, say a dog, most anyone would guess it was on its last leg. And they would offer compassion, treats or maybe even a steak bone. But trucks aren’t living creatures with hearts and souls, not to most people at least, and so the more typical reaction is the exact question my friend asked that afternoon: “What’s taken him so long to get a new one?”
Part of the answer is that the truck may not be pretty, but it still gets the job done. Another part is that his father has also driven the same car since I have known him. Those parts don’t come together for the whole truth though. I know because I’ve been thinking about them more and more while I wondered when he was finally going to throw in the towel. And also why I wasn’t gently nudging him toward the nearest dealership. Or even more gently, hiding the duct tape.
“It might go another 100,000 miles now,” he said not long ago, as he walked in the house with grease up to his elbows. I expected my frustration to flare, but instead I remembered the first time I saw that truck. It was sitting in the driveway of a friend’s house in Houston. The truck was brand new, but the wheels were covered in a thick, gray mud. I thought to myself: How far out of town would someone have to drive to get mud caked on like that? And it was the question that led me to him.
As a textbook romantic, someone who had sat around for years listening to friends recount stories of when their eyes locked with their future husbands or wives and they felt their story together begin, I did not suspect that the sight of some mud on a truck was our beginning. But now I do suspect it. More than that, I know it.
And so I watch the shiny new trucks on the road. I know eventually one of them will be rolling to our house. But I also know that long after it has pulled into the drive, I will still be listening for the phlegmy rattle. Anyone can go out and buy a truck. But the heart and the soul, that’s harder to come by.