I learned how to drive in a Mazda 626 that had already passed through a few family members.
This car carried me around as I learned how to drive properly, taking on all the bumps, scrapes, dents and scratches that go with a naturally unco-ordinated person trying to get used to driving.
Over the years it lost shape, paint, mirrors, and more. It even started leaking in rain, making winter driving a freezing, wet, and, since the water dripping down marks the inside of the windscreen, a slightly more dangerous than it should be experience.
I haven't actually driven the poor thing into anything for years (well, apart from that one time and it was a tiny little bump, didn't even dent and only scratched the paint a little, and I swear the other car came out of nowhere; and, well, the rock) but by the time I learned how to drive without scraping walls, trees, pavements etc, the damage was done.
I've received many a stare: pitying, amused, even disgusted, all because of how awful my car looks.
But for years it has soldiered on as I put it through drive after challenging drive, at one point even taking me from Table View to Stellenbosch and back (about 100km in total) daily.
It has been mostly reliable, rarely in need of much attention. It might not always have kept me warm and dry but it's kept me safe and has taken me whereever I needed to go, whenever I did.
And it's dead.
I was heading home at around 5am when I found my route blocked by burning tyres.
Protesters had blocked off certain roads and there was no getting around them. I tried to take a detour down a side road but it was dark and I could see more fires up ahead and that's when I rode over a rock.
One of these giant freaking rocks was, for no apparent reason, just chilling in the middle of the road:
My car was instantly very clearly not going anywhere any time soon.
I thought I had probably burst a tyre but with the confusion, darkness, protesters and the fires getting bigger, I wasn't about to attempt to change it.
Five minutes later my boyfriend was driving me home. I phoned the AA to find out if I would absolutely have to be with the car when they fetched it, so I arranged for them to fetch it a few hours later, once the protests had stopped, traffic had died down, and it was light.
When we returned I found my tires were fine, but not my poor car. The floor of the car was wrecked, dented inwards, the rock had torn open the sump, and, when I tried to start the car, it became immediately clear that the gear box was wrecked.
A mechanic did think, for a while, that it might still be repairable, but today I found out the news that it absolutely is not. On top of everything else, the engine has been pushed back and it's just not worth fixing. The only option is to scrap it.
I'm surprised at how sad I am.
It's not the fact that I no longer have the convenience of a car. I've needed to think about getting a new car for a while and I can manage at least for a while without my own transport. It's the sense of loss of something I really was very attached to. My poor, faithful, ugly to everyone but me, reliable car. I feel... mourning. As if a very dear pet has died.
Even the thought that my car is in a garage with strangers all around it makes me feel wretched. It's probably in pain, and scared, and feeling alone. It's probably is wondering why it's there, and where I am, and...
I know. I know. I'm being ridiculous. Frankly I shouldn't have been allowed to watch movies like A Brave Little Toaster and Toy Story, I was clearly far too impressionable a child.
I'm so sad. And I'm going to try to go see my car one last time. And I'm going to cry. And I don't think any car will ever quite live up to its memory. Nothing's going to quite feel right.
Goodbye, Mazda 626, who's description of "burgundy" has never failed to instantly require me to explain "like a dark red", who patiently accepted the knocks and scrapes that came with being my faithful transport, and who carried on driving beautifully long after many cars would have started regularly breaking down.
I'll never accidentally lock my keys in you again, or accidentally knock off your side-mirror, or apply masking tape to the parts of you that really needed a bit of bandaging up. You have been so faithful, so steadfast, so reliable. It's time for you finally to rest.
For a moment, I'm going to willingly suspend my disbelief and imagine you're heading to car heaven. You'll like it there. It never rains.
This first appeared on Laura's blog. Follow Laura on Twitter.
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