84. The Porsche Factor

84. The Porsche Factor

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

The Porsche Factor

Remember, we all stumble, every one of us.
That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand.

~Emily Kimbrough

I held my ring under the light and watched it sparkle. Newly-married life was as bright as my new diamond... except for one nagging shadow of doubt. The Porsche factor, I called it secretly. Yes, my new husband actually owned one of those sleek, red cars that belonged in a James Bond movie.

The Porsche was a constant reminder of the different worlds we came from. His family belonged to a country club, donated generously to charities and took exotic vacations. My family struggled to make ends meet. We shopped at thrift stores, cut coupons and took public transportation.

Rich people seem to care so much about stuff, I thought. After the honeymoon was really over, would my husband love me more than his stuff? If only there was some way to be sure.

On his first morning back to work, he handed me his keys. “I’ll take the bus,” he said. “You drive the car.”

I fingered the worn leather key ring. “Are you sure?” I asked. I’d never driven the Porsche, although he’d been offering it ever since my ancient car died a month before the wedding.

“Sure,” he said, “but... be careful.”

I felt a twinge of irritation even though I knew he couldn’t keep himself from adding the warning. I said a prayer as I started the engine. After all, this was no ordinary car.

My father-in-law had driven it home for the first time almost fifteen years ago. Under his care, the car gleamed like a jewel and purred like a well-fed tiger. The boy who grew up to be my husband spent hours beside his dad, handing over a needed tool, studying the correct way to wax and learning the well-crafted intricacies of a Porsche engine. Sometimes he’d even sneak out to the garage in the middle of the night and climb carefully into the driver’s seat. Without actually touching anything, he’d pretend he was driving fast along the curves of an empty road.

One day, his dad took him aside. “Son, if you save the money by the time you turn sixteen, your mother and I will sell you this car.”

The amount he named was far less than what the Porsche was worth, but it was a big amount for a boy to earn and save. My husband found a job cleaning the garage in an apartment complex, emptying garbage cans, sweeping and mopping. He worked after school and on weekends and saved every penny he earned. On his sixteenth birthday, he proudly handed his dad a check and took the Porsche out for a drive.

There was a mystical male bond between my husband, his dad and that car. Even now, when we drove the shiny Porsche into the driveway of my in-laws’ house, his dad came out to check on it.

“Good job, son. The car looks great.”

With all that history in mind, I drove slowly at first, like I was handling a piece of heirloom china. I pulled to a stop at the first hint of a yellow light and clung to the right lane on the freeway. As the car picked up speed, my confidence grew. I rolled down the window, turned up the radio and nosed into the fast lane.

After doing some shopping, I couldn’t wait to drive home. I walked eagerly to where I’d parked the car in the crowded lot — and stopped. The Porsche had moved a good three feet forward in the parking space.

Somebody must have hit it from behind.

I stood for a moment, trying to gather my courage to inspect the damage. The back end wasn’t bad; the bumper seemed to have absorbed most of the shock. But when I saw the crumpled fender and the dent on the hood, my heart sank. A sign that read “ten-minute parking only” leaned over it like a warrior gloating over a fallen enemy.

Oh no! I thought. I’d left the gearshift in “neutral” instead of “park,” and the car had lurched forward when it had been hit.

I drove home slowly, fighting my tears. For the first time since our wedding, I didn’t want to see my husband. He found me hiding under the covers.

“What’s wrong, honey? Are you sick?”

“The car,” I said, my voice muffled. “Something bad happened. I left it in neutral and somebody crashed into it while it was parked and they didn’t leave a note.”

I waited while he went down to the parking garage to inspect the damage. When he returned, the sadness in his eyes made me hide my face in the pillow.

“It’s okay, honey,” he said. “Don’t worry about it.”

But we both knew that this was no ordinary car. To make things worse, we were scheduled to drive that very night to his parents’ house.

“Do you want me to tell them you’re not feeling well?” he asked.

“No,” I answered grimly. For better or worse I’d promised just a couple of weeks earlier. And this was definitely the worst day so far.

As we drove to my in-laws’ house, I felt a rush of hatred for the Porsche. Why was this material object such a treasure, anyway? It was a pile of metal welded together with some wiring inside, destined for rust and decay.

When we pulled into the driveway, I shrank in my seat. My in-laws were coming out of the front door, both of them beaming as usual.

My father-in-law began walking around the Porsche with an appraising glance. When he reached the front of the car, I caught my breath.

“Oh no!” he shouted. “What happened?”

Feeling like a criminal about to be sentenced, I waited for my husband’s answer.

“We had a little accident,” he said.

As the two of them began to discuss repairs, I wondered if I’d heard wrong. Had he really said, “we”? I was responsible for the first damage ever done to this family treasure. Surely he’d explain to his dad that there was no we about it at all. Before I could speak up, my mother-in-law pulled me into the house.

“I’m going to tell them the truth,” I told him, when the two of us had a moment alone later. “It’s not right for you to take the blame.”

“Who cares who did it?” he answered. “It’s just a car.”

I felt like shouting for joy, but I hugged him instead. I was still determined to tell his parents the truth, but that didn’t matter now. The secret shadow of my last doubt was gone. Without the Porsche factor, our life together sparkled even more brilliantly than the diamond on my finger.

 

~Mitali Perkins
Chicken Soup for the Bride Soul

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