The music in my car does not hold my attention, but the view in my mirror of the loft buildings behind me does. The pad of my thumb is irritated, and is reddened by my mood of the moment. There’s a sound that people make when they are about to cut loose and want to try to hold it in: “Gah!”

I think it’s to release all that hot air that is stored inside. It’s our inner kettle whistling. I feel the noise build up inside my throat and picture steam emitting from my ears. I imagine my face red, fog on the sunglasses and hair on end. I am a cartoon. I close my eyes and count to thirty, matching the pace of the train.

My forefinger punches the dial through radio stations while a freight train passes by as I wait on an old road. There is no sign to tell me where I am. The smoke from the factories in this part of town has choked the life out of the few remaining trees, while the other side looks green from where I am. I scan from one song to the next, to the click-clack of the tattooed freight cars. They tell me to Fuck Off, Fight War, and Screw Jaime. I tell them no thank you and release my first “Gah!” of the day. Several loud and long ones follow it until the train has passed.

It’s not until the crossing guards lift and I maneuver over the tracks that I feel relaxed. Leaving this town means I can breathe again. I fill up my lungs with the air that surrounds me, ignoring the pollutants, and order myself not to look back. A number without a name texts me and calls as I plant my foot on the gas pedal and I know who it is. He springs into being with each call, and disappears just as quickly with the determined click of a button. Some relationships become your ghosts while others linger to feed upon you. But not this one. It had yet to be. The air on the other side of the tracks is just a bit fresher as I delete a third text.

There are two types of drivers in this world: Commuters and Labradors. You can tell the difference between the two. A commuter’s face is in a constant state of fluctuation, betwixt tension and utter boredom. An angry raisin staring at the road ahead, eyes fixed upon the end in sight. Route A to B to A to B until the mind is numb.

I am a Labrador. If I could, I would let my ears flap in the wind, my tongue loll out the window with a permanent grin glued on my face. A guffawing sound, Disney-like by nature, would echo from my lungs. Drool and slobber be damned. Had I a tail it would wag constantly, thumping against the leather seat like a drumbeat. I am happiest in motion. My car is an extension of who I am.

Commuters do not understand this connection. Other Labradors do. You can tell when you meet a fellow Lab. Their eyes soften as they talk about their car. They talk about how they love to follow the curve of a road as it snakes ahead of them. They would never dream of flying, even if it shaves off a day’s worth of time. Saving time has nothing to do with being a Labrador behind the wheel. You can’t stick your head out of a plane. I’m certain that tongue and tail wagging are frowned upon by the FAA.

Music and driving go together. It’s another part of the relationship that I have with my car. Sometimes I leave NPR on the radio and listen to the voices wafting in from a tiny studio, filled with underpaid nobodies and marginal somebodies. Most of the time my car and I twist and turn along to a jumble of music. One of my longest and healthiest relationships was with Julie, the green Chrysler Sebring convertible, with a tan roof that opened up to the sky. My first car, like a first love. I don’t know why I named her, except that there was a song that was the impetus for naming metal and leather and rubber bits stuck together by a factory full of people I would never meet. But I named it, and thought of the car as female. I was twenty-one years old then. The car was bought from my folks at the family discount. Not quite the five finger discount, but close to it. Nine years later Julie had her last drive. The engine needed to be replaced. The brake pads were worn thin. Julie was making odd sputtering noises when I hit the gas peddle, or the brake, or turned the wheel, or blinked. She wasn’t a pet but it was a loss. That car was a way to leave the familiar and find a new home. To be reckless in search of adventure on the high seas of black tar and gravel and then to return home where it was safe. Julie was a place for misbehaving and losing items found years later wedged under the back seat. Julie was all of those things. Now I have Sam. Sam is more mature. She is a less dented convertible. Sam is new and was purchased from a dealer’s lot, where words like “financing” and “loans” and “interest rate” were applied. Pieces of paper were stapled together and signed.

Sam steers me out of Boston and we move on up and east towards the Coast. I open up my eyes and watch the lights wink at me from around the bend. The windows are rolled down and I let my lungs fill up with air. My tail wags against the leather and I am a happy gal again.

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