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The Literal Landscape
by Simmons B. Buntin, Editor/Publisher, Terrain.org

Falling in Love: Confessions of a Minivan Owner

I attended parochial school long enough to know that it is dreadfully wrong to covet thy neighbor’s wife. I’m hoping, however, that it’s less of a sin to covet thy neighbor’s minivan.

Falling in love with a minivan is no simple fairy tale. Like your first college sweetheart or your latest marriage, it evolves, matures, reverses at times to drive forward. At 16, I first fell for a 1966 Ford Mustang, then a series of Honda sedans, and more recently I’ve been attracted to the new sporty hybrid vehicles.

My first relationship with a minivan wasn’t so long ago—a Ford Windstar purchased used from the Budget Rent-a-Car lot. That was a love affair doomed from the beginning: she had been abused during so many one-night stands, I couldn’t expect her to trust me. In the end, she fell back to a series of regular visits with the repair shop, her automotive therapist.

During that painful time with the Windstar, knowing the relationship would end sooner than later, my eyes began to wander. Oh, I found myself thinking as we turned onto the boulevard, that’s an attractive new Siena. Or on the way to work: My, I do admire the Grand Caravan’s restyled front end. Mostly, however I found myself coveting my neighbor’s minivan. It’s a sleek, granite green Honda Odyssey.

At first, I gave the Odyssey only sidelong glances while passing. Over time, I would sneak to my neighbor’s garage to admire her wide stance and noble stature. Finally, I couldn’t hide my feelings any longer, and began paying her regular visits. Far from jealous, my neighbors encouraged my admiration, further pressing the throttle of my desire.

And that’s when the idea first came to me. It’s true, people have online affairs all the time, but there’s no real, no lasting danger, right? So I dialed up my Internet browser and tuned in the Honda home page. Just a few more clicks and there she was—the 2002 Honda Odyssey, dressed in one of a half-dozen delicious colors, from taffeta white to evergreen pearl. But my eyes fell almost instantly to redrock pearl, the deep ruby I remember like the sweet lips of my first kiss at the junior prom. I was as giddy as the first time I stole a view in Playboy, as sheepish as the time I read E.E. Cummings in the front of the freshman class.

With every view, every feature hidden then revealed, my heart beat faster and the world around me began to swirl. Her 240 horsepower and five-speed automatic overdrive, her foldaway third-row Magic seat, her dual sliding doors and front and side air impact bags. This auto-eroticism was nearly too much. We needed to stop meeting like this.

Over the next week I tried to stay away from the computer and keep my mind off of her. But my neighbor’s elegant Odyssey was parked out front for all to see. And now my boss drove to work in her new starlight silver model with leather trim and DVD entertainment system. I couldn’t stop thinking about the redrock pearl with quartz interior.

And then the Windstar and I had a falling out. It was inevitable I suppose. Maybe I was to blame as much as is she. At only 53,000 miles, she blew a vacuum hose and head gasket, and it was more than I could take. The next week, the papers were signed—she was for sale.

The following day, I pulled up the familiar Honda Internet site once more, customized the Odyssey just as easily as I might select a mail-order bride, and clicked that final “Submit” button. Within hours the Honda dealer contacted me, and $500 later I was on the waiting list. I quickly learned she had many admirers, all willing to sacrifice money and more to call her their own.

The hours, days, weeks passed like we were already engaged yet oceans apart. Whenever I yearned for her I had the feeling that she too, somehow, had her onboard navigation system set on me. Perhaps it was second-row sliding seats or the automatic climate control, perhaps the traction control or electronic brake distribution system, but I knew we were meant for each other. And her five-star safety rating and Low Emission Vehicle status meant no more late nights worrying about whether she would be as faithful to me as I to her.

Two days ago the phone rang. With a slight hesitation I picked up the receiver to hear the glorious voice of the dealer. My redrock pearl 2002 Honda Odyssey had arrived. She needed to freshen up, get acclimated from her long journey south, and then she would be ready.

I dashed out of the office and with a nervous excitement I haven’t felt in years drove to the dealership, knowing all the while that I had been falling in love since the beginning.


Simmons B. Buntin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments. With Ken Pirie, he is the author of the new book Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places (Planetizen Press, 2013). His books of poetry are Riverfall (2005) and Bloom (2010), both published by Ireland's Salmon Poetry. Recent work has appeared in North American Review, ISLE, Versal, Orion, Hawk & Handsaw, High Desert Journal, and Kyoto Journal. Catch up with him at www.SimmonsBuntin.com.
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