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Riding in your car
 

I could never stay awake on a Friday afternoon.  She would pick me up in that little blue Nova.  No weekend started without rain, and there was no Friday after school that she didn't drive me up Woodward to her house, or to her school, or somewhere. I don't know what made my eyes close every time I rode in that car.  Maybe it was because the afternoons were always dark that spring.  Or maybe it was the sound.  The rain was tapping on the windshield and the wipers were tracing their little incomplete arcs.  Every once in a while I could hear the sound of a Bic lighter starting up another cigarette.  Right before I would fall asleep, I would slide down in that passenger seat.  She always drove.  Her skin was soft and the window handles hadn't yet turned white.

* * * * *

Wherever we went, he drove. It was always a black Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, red velveteen interior. It was a square black car, but it was also a fast one.  There was Coco Chanel in the air.  Tony Bennett was playing on the stereo.  I sat in the back, she sat in the back.  It was a dusk in the humid part of the summer.  It was hard to say where the car was going — Lakeshore? Mack? Who knew.  I couldn't see over the back of the front seat.  All I saw from the rear window was treetops.  The car just rolled along, a plush living room on wheels.  I guess she and I weren't paying much attention.

* * * * *

The city was dark and rainy. Yellow sodium lights danced on the Jetta's windshield, turned cartwheels, disappeared, and came back. We looked for that damn bar on U Street in NW.  And looked.  It had name that had something to do with communism, but neither of us could remember exactly what it was.  We went around and around the block. The engine revved up, shifted down.  I noticed for the first time that we were both wearing black sweaters. Wow.  We were clones.  But her sweater looked a lot less scratchy. Eventually we found a place to stash the car.  Later, we would sit in the back of the bar with some live music and some warm beer. That night ended early.  The flowers were still in my refrigerator the next day.

* * * * *

It's hard to identify the scent of my dad's Pininfarina-bodied, V8-driven Cadillac convertible.  But I think it was leather, red leather.  And fresh coffee.  And a cigarette from fifteen minutes ago.  Sundays were for adventuring: bookstores, antique shops, sometimes even the rifle range.  The car rode like it was on rails.  There was always a classical piano tape in the player.  Most often the tape contained Chopin's Polonaise No. 6, Op. 53 in A flat.  I I always thought he was running the engine too high with that four speed.   And stopping much too fast.  God, I'm glad that car had seat belts.

* * * * *

The Sundays were sunny, and we always drove her silver Pontiac sedan on residential streets through Grosse Pointe. I always had a cup of coffee, and the cup was always open and ceramic. We passed by the familiar landmarks, the same as last week, the same as the next. That was the best house; no - hey, look at that one. It was always a bright idyll, and the shocks were always a lot smoother than you would expect from a sedan. Until she hit the curb once and sent the coffee all over my shirt.

* * * * *

I had never ridden in a Citröen with hydraulics. Not a station wagon. Well, I have to admit I hadn't ridden in many Citröens at all.  He was pulling along the freeway, at maybe two hundred kilometers an hour. The car rode about six inches above the ground. Shit, if we had ran over a dime the car would have bottomed out. He pulled the car over, switched it over to LPG — la bomba was in the trunk, leaned over, and said, "Wanna drive?"

* * * * *

My grandfather's car had the perfume of big sedan leather. It was not any type of leather; it was that smooth grey leather that they put in a new Sedan de Ville. The car floated along one of those rural highways, Norwalk, Lima, Woodville. The trip always ended at a picnic in the middle of a corn field. Occasionally the car lifted off at the top of a steep hill. I guess I was glad the doors had those little wooden handles to grab.

* * * * *

We were drunk on champagne and stuffed with chocolate pastries.  We stumbled in from the terrazzo with the broken champagne flutes underfoot, down the stairs, out of the school and down to her car.  The little white Fiat Uno shot down the hills, away from the Tibur, into the plains.  I looked at her and looked lazily around the car.   Blue.  At least it looked blue.  Five speed manual.  A hole where the radio had been.  She was smiling.  The day was bright and overcast, with rain clouds gathering above the muddy fields outside town.  We drove to the middle of a grassy nowhere and took a warm nap on the folded seats.

DAST