Breakdown

By Fatima Al-Shemary

A rusty Lebaron from 1987 was the cause of all the fights. It wasn’t the ideal car for a just-married couple with a baby on the way, but my father bought it for my mother as a one year anniversary gift. She was thrilled about owning a brand new car. Everything they had was either rented, poor quality or secondhand. Now, it sat outside in the driveway of the flat, two bedroom house, rusting to its slow but inevitable end. My father fixed it a few times, which worked for a while even though it kept breaking down on the road. She was definitely not happy with it now, but I was the one stuck driving it ever since my father bought a more reliable car for himself. My mother begged him to get rid of the Lebaron, but my father has a weird attachment to the thing. They fought about the stupid car all the time. They fought about other things too – money mostly – but the Lebaron seemed to really hit a nerve with both of them. He promised to help me buy a better car when he saved enough money. But now that he was paying for weekly marriage counseling, the investment had been slow going. I’d done my best to keep the car going while we saved. My mother just wanted it gone. I always had a fear of the thing breaking down in the middle of the road, but my father did something to the battery so that it wouldn’t shut off every time I hit the brake. My mother hadn’t said anything about it in a while. Today as I drove home from my waitressing job, it chugged along the road while other cars whizzed by, and then it shuddered as if offering its final dying breath, collapsing in the middle of the street. It was unnerving having to sit in the broken Lebaron in the midst of traffic while cars maneuvered around me. I cranked the window down and stuck a white paper cloth outside of it so they knew the car had broken down. I picked up the phone to dial for towing, but then my father called. I answered it.

“Hi, Dad.”

“You’re late. Are you caught up in traffic?”

“No, the car broke down again. Pretty sure it’s for good this time.”

He swore. “I’ll be right there. Where are you?”

I told him where I was, then asked, “Is there something you want to tell me?”

“I’ll tell you when I get there.”

“Just tell me now.”

He sighed. “Your mom served me with divorce papers this morning. She’s packed her things and gone to your grandparents.”

“But what about the marriage counseling? I thought everything was okay?”

“So did I. Listen, we’ll talk about it later.” He was on the verge of tears. I felt a huge weight of responsibility fall on my shoulders.

“Stay there. I’ll call towing and get the car moved, then I’ll grab a bus home.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, you stay home. I’ll be there soon.”

“Drive safe,” he mumbled, forgetting about the broken car. The other end clicked off.

For a while, I just sat in the collapsed twenty-year-old Lebaron, wondering why it had to break down on me?

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