Goodbye, Bertha

Dearest Bertha,

I’m not sure I ever told you this, but I never wanted you. No, I wanted the bright red Honda Civic on Hillside Ave. But Dad was helping me finance the purchase, and as such, we went with his pick.

When I first laid eyes on you, I was less than pleased.

“It looks like an old lady car,” I said to Dad.

“That’s because it is an old lady’s car,” he replied.

After all the paperwork was settled, my heart swelled a bit when I saw you in the driveway. The feeling quickly passed when I sat in the driver’s seat and choked on the cigarette smoke. The old lady must have been on three packs a day, at least.

I fumbled for the keys, unable to get the windows down fast enough. As I took in the fresh air – the smell of nicotine infused cancer sticks still strong – my fingers ran across the cigarette burns in the seats.

“I hate this fucking car.”


For the first few weeks, you smelled of Virginia Slims and lavender vanilla Febreeze. When that didn’t take, I threw two boxes of baking soda on the back dash. Still nothing.

I’m not sure if I got used to it or what, but eventually, my nose didn’t crinkle. Over time, you started smelling like the various Bath and Body Works Scentportables I bought three at a time – eucalyptus mint, tiki beach, sweet pea.

Your outer appearance also started growing on me. I put that stuffed panda ball in the corner by the registration, the seahorse keychain Bryan bought me hanging from the rearview. I decorated your behind with bumper stickers from my favorite shows – Bluth’s Frozen Bananas, Tyrion – putting the “imp” in PIMP.

You were starting to feel like home.


It’s been twelve years since that first day in the driveway. We’ve been to twelve states, almost every town on Long Island, to the city during rush hour. You shuttled me to community college, undergrad, and then out to the Hamptons for graduate school. You let me bang your steering wheel in fury after bad job interviews, and blast shitty love ballads after terrible breakups. And that time in Virginia…you had my back.

And now, it looks like it might be the end.

I know you’re an inanimate object. I know you can’t feel or talk or love. But I think you might be the one thing on this planet that knows all of me – who’s seen all of me. You’re one of my best friends, Bertha.

I’m not sure I have any pictures of us. In fact, the only ones I do have are probably from the damage. But what I’ll have forever are the memories – the best of the 90s sing alongs with Natalia, early morning trips to Bryan’s…late night drives to nowhere.

I love you, Bertha.



About ljsharks

Lauren J. Sharkey is a Korean American writer from Long Island, NY. Her debut novel, INCONVENIENT DAUGHTER is forthcoming June 23, 2020, and is based on her experience as a transracial adoptee. Sharkey's creative nonfiction has appeared on DEAR ADOPTION,, Blind Faith Books' I AM STRENGTH collection, and others.

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