By Rebecca F. Rikleen
We were not the first owners nor the last owners of Blue Boy. But he was ours. I had been wary of buying a Ford in the first place; Ford the man was such a bigot, so hateful.
But price was right; the car was carefully used, and convenient and within our means. Plus it was a hatchback, great for lugging groceries and treasures from yard sales; the mileage was good. I would overlook the dreaded personality of the namesake, long dead.
Ford was born in 1863. Blue boy was born 91 years after Ford. Blue Boy served us well; we bequeathed him to my daughter Annie when he was 12 years old. Now a year later, granddaughter Emily drove him to show us her apartment in Brooklyn.
At 125th St and First Avenue she slammed into a black sedan. I wasn’t looking; I saw nothing till suddenly an enameled black wall loomed and then, with a jolt, our windshield smashed in myriad fracture lines; paper bags collected around my legs and greasy black smoke spiraled up from the motor.
The seat belt, yes, get out of the seat belt, escape through the door, save Herb. Emily was already out on her side. Herb’s door was locked, wouldn’t budge. Herb inside. He was fumbling and saying, “I can’t open my seat belt.” Blue Boy was ready to explode into flames. I was screaming, “Herb’s door is locked.” Simultaneously, Emily cried out ”the car is moving.” She threw herself into the rolling car, rammed on the brake, and shut the ignition, also released Herb’s door. I threw the door open, fumbled with the seat lock and pulled Herb out, in time. We edged away. Blue Boy did not erupt in flames. Only then was I aware of two bruises, one on my left eyebrow and one on my left lip.
A mystery. When did that happen? How? Some time was missing between the black wall and the smashed windshield.
We were all so relieved we could stand and walk, and could see the passengers of the black enamel impact were standing about uninjured and I dismissed the mystery until I saw the photos Emily took of the wreck. The windshield was shattered only on my side. I had shattered it. My head did not remember; only my bruises whispered a reminder. Both front seat air bags were reported deployed, the paper sagging around my legs, did it rub my face? Useless to ask for testimony. There remained only a gasping glance of a black shining wall, then a swallowing of time and then the evidence of myriad cracks and two minor bruises.
Emily suffered her confidence; her driving record had been perfect, she had no experience as to what to do. The car was on loan from her parents. Remorse roiled with dismay, with confusion, with disbelief, with possible guilt. “I had the green light,” she kept saying.
Police wanted only to see that no one was injured. An eager local insurance agent offered to tow Blue Boy, to give us a car on loan. Emily was waiting for instructions from her mother on the cell phone.
That area has no buildings, no residences, no foot traffic. It is the intersection and separation of roads to FDR Drive, to a Bridge to Bronx, and wide entrance to First Avenue. Herb and I leaned on the iron fence enclosing an unused bare area where picnic tables were stacked. Lots of gray sky.
No steps to sit on, no stores to shelter. Just standing in the open. But no rain either. A stranger appeared with two folding chairs. In deference to our age he had brought these from a block away with no reference for thanks or for return. We needed those chairs. Emily mostly paced, sometimes sat on the ground. Time passed. The other car and its standing passengers disappeared. If we didn’t have the two chairs Herb and I wouldn’t have been able to endure standing. Eventually the hours passed, two, three, four. We couldn’t leave Emily distraught, young, alone. Five hours wait for the proper tow truck to arrive from Brooklyn. We left the two chairs empty, abandoned. The extraordinary kindness of a stranger who gave us seats without being asked made the danger, the bending of time, the boredom, the uncertainty, the unforeseen setback, the cost, the unknown outcome, all bearable.
We waited till Blue Boy was towed away. It was the last we saw of him, his light-weight body twisted and folded grotesquely, faithful and willing but fatally mauled, declared dead. Fond memories though. My cousin who drives a pricey Lexus, had laughed at his color, “What’s this? A Dominican?” Blue Boy served three generations of our family. We won’t forget him.