I still can’t decide if sponsoring this writing contest was the worst idea I’ve had this year or the best. It started when I sold my car. It wasn’t my first car, but it was the first car I had sold myself, and I had driven it for over ten years. It was one of the last big purchases I had made with my husband, and it was one of the things that made my post-divorce life viable. My dependable, paid-off car made all the shifting pieces of my life work.
I had priced it low because of some work that needed to be done and because I wanted to get it off my insurance ASAP, so the whole thing went down pretty quickly. I sold it to the first guy who looked at it, even though it felt somewhat shady to be handing over my most reliable source of support for a stack of cash in a Maverick gas station parking lot. It felt even more shady an hour later when he called back, demanding that I return his money (less $100 for my time) because the car was a lemon. When I refused, it spiraled downhill into classic scammer language, threats, and a call to the police. It was without a doubt the worst selling experience I have ever had, and I realized I would have been happier if I had given the car away for free to someone I trusted. It makes you feel incredibly vulnerable to have your car title (with all of that sensitive information) in the hands of an unsavory character, and I wished I had not valued cash over my sense of personal safety.
The next day, on a hunch, I checked Craigslist for another city and found what was unmistakably my car, listed for $1,100 more than what I had sold it for (but with no hint of the work that needed to be done). It was such a kick in the gut to see those pictures and know that my car was truly gone and gone in a horrible way. There would be no do-over for this. The only thing to do was move on. It is not an exaggeration to say that I ugly-cried for the rest of the day.
When I came out on the other side of this, I decided to do some more purging, but when I went to hang the ad for my ex-husband’s wedding band on the ad board at BYU, I couldn’t do it. My hands were shaking as I thought of some criminal deciding to prey upon sweet, innocent BYU students and plucking my 3×5 card off the wall in this very public hallway. I couldn’t do it.
When I tried to pawn it, the offer was so ridiculously low (5% of what it was valued at) that I decided I needed to approach this differently. What did I want from this ring? Money? Not at the cost of feeling vulnerable. No, what I really wanted was closure. I had purchased this ring in the exuberance of young love, and that is honestly where it still resides. But that love is as gone for me as my beloved car. There will be no do-overs for this. The only thing to do is move on.
It has been eight years since this ring was formally retired, and my life has been reshaped many times since then. I’ve held onto it mostly due to inertia but also because it is one of the last representations of the pure love and hope that my little family sprang from. This is why I don’t want to just hand it over to a stranger in a Maverick gas station parking lot in exchange for a stack of cash. I want the ring to move on in its journey to another person who knows which star I was aiming for when I slipped it on the hand of the man who would become the father of my children. That’s a lot to ask of a writing contest, maybe too much to ask. Maybe no one is as sentimental as I am. Maybe people are superstitious about a ring that was retired due to divorce. Maybe (as my students tell me) no one else knows what to do with a $2,000 wedding band either. Maybe I should just put up a classified ad and be done with it. I’m told it isn’t as vulnerable a feeling as selling a used car.
The deadline for the contest is May 30, so I’ve set that as the date when I will give up on this crazy idea and settle for whatever stack of cash I can get. Currently, I only have one submission to the contest so I’m trying to reconcile myself to the idea that this writing contest is fairly doomed as well. It’s a lot like romance — it sounds really good in abstract, but the reality is unrelentingly painful. I can almost hear most of you protesting that sentiment, but I have yet to have the Universe prove me wrong on this point. In fact, I might have figured out the question I posed at the beginning of this essay except that the writing contest can’t be the very worst idea I’ve had this year, because this is also the year when I had the bright idea to sell my car.
For more information or to submit to this writing contest by May 30, click here.
Submit any style creative writing (up to 10 pages) that shores up the hope that romantic love can actually happen in this crazy world of heartbreak and dashed dreams. Previously published work is welcome. Tell me your story (or someone else’s). Warm my heart. Make me laugh. Make me happy to cry. The winner of the contest will get a $2,000 platinum and 18-karat yellow gold band (men’s size 10/11). The top entries will be published on the blog for the Speak For Yourself Open Mic community and the top five writers will be invited to read from their work as a special feature for Speak For Yourself Open Mic in Provo (restricted to local writers or those who can pay for their own travel).