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  • "If I win this settlement," he said with a gleam in his eyes. "That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to Southeast Asia and I'm going to travel for months."

    "Why wait?" I asked. "Go anyway."

    He grinned.

    "Life is short," I said. "You never know what might happen."

    He gave me a hug and climbed into the car I could no longer drive, my dream car, the car I'd always wanted, the car I bought a dozen years earlier, a baker's dozen, lucky number 13, because life was too short to drive a car that didn't make me happy. My Neon just made me sad.

    Well before my head started swimming, I had stopped driving much. I had started walking more for my health and the move into urban living but I still loved my Jeep. It was my dream, my freedom, my car, and I hoped that someday, I would be able to drive it again. That someday, I would drive again.

    In the grand scale of things to miss in life, it seemed pretty stupid. My dad's sister had never driven in her life and she seemed to do just fine. At least, I'd had time on the road, with the roof down and the music up, driving through mountains, along the beach, on winding country roads, with the whole world in front of me.

    I knew I ought to drive a boring car, a sensible sedan, something utilitarian while the Jeep offered utility only in a sporting sense. SUV. It was a gas guzzler and completely against the green girl in me but I didn't mind. I didn't drive often and I didn't drive far.

    A friend's husband had helped me buy it, negotiating when I couldn't and speaking to his wife, my "sister," in Arabic that I couldn't follow. That night, my roommate and I drove through Georgetown and out into the 'burbs. We sat on the roll bar and sang along to the music that blared as she cried over love lost.

    In the summers, I dropped the roof and taught my nieces and nephew to climb over the sides, to stand on the tire rather than the fender flares and trust that everything would be all right. I taught them how to take the roof off and how to put the roof up. We ran in the rain to reach it in time, squeezing together in the front seat until the squall passed enough to let us go back to the party, soaked and giggling.

    In the past dozen years, a baker's dozen, lucky number 13, I drove on the beach. I drove in the mountains, in the sun, snow and rain. I lent it to a friend volunteering with the Red Cross during Hurricane Sandy. I ferried hundreds of packages, month after month, to send to prisoners. I helped friends move. I moved myself.

    A few years back, when I lived in the old place, I held the distinct impression that a homeless man slept in my Jeep. Someone slept in the garage in my landlord's Karmann Ghia and someone else across town in my friend Brian's Festiva. (If it helped someone out, why not?) It just smelled a little funky (like Brian's Festiva). Dropping the roof in the spring helped clear the air.

    I loved my car almost as much I hated the loss of my freedom, of the open road, wind in my hair, miles rolling under my tires. I hated the fact that I couldn't just drive to the store for gallons of water when my pipes froze, that I couldn't go to my high school reunion.

    I used to dream of traveling, too, even more than I did. For the longest time, I'd been saving miles and I had enough – more than enough – for a "Round the World" ticket. It was my backup plan, my exit strategy, my chance to "Get Out of Jail Free." When life ended up too much to bear, I could leave. I would leave. I would fly west and keep heading west for a year or so or maybe the rest of my life.

    As it turned out, I cashed in those chips even before I stopped driving. I needed to stay insured. I had to stay employed.

    "Life is short," I said when he told me his plans for what he would do if he won the settlement. "You never know what might happen."

    He hugged me and then, he got in my dream and drove it away.

    "You might as well go out and live it now," I called to the taillights, and then I went inside to dream myself a new one.

    I'm still working on it, but I'll get there.
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