Riding in Cars with a Boy

We spend our lives in cars. We drive to work, to the gym. We stop at red lights. We pack pails and towel-stuffed bags into hot trunks and drive to the beach, only to dump sand in and drive back home. We spend our lives in cars, getting in and out of cars, as cars, driving by, slowing down, parking for a while but always driving home.

The first time I was in a car with you it was late at night and I probably should have gone home. But instead I picked you up, you sitting on your own car’s trunk, legs swinging, waiting. We drove and you talked and I smiled and got a little lost and paid only a little attention to the road but a lot to your mouth, your lips as they formed the words that started the whole avalanche that is us.

After that the drives came fast and often, yellow lines blurring while my hands were on the steering wheel or your hands were on me. You weren’t an errand or an occasional stop on the way to something else—you and I were the car, always together, always moving forward or going back home.

And then I left for the city and you drove to the school just a few blocks away. We were a car parked, a vehicle anxious to leave the stop sign where it wasn’t often our turn to go. You would come to me sometimes, and, after a day or two, in cars we would frown through kisses and count down the days until we’d occupy the front seats together again.

I would drive home, so anxious to see you that I’d jump right back in and press the pedal down like I planned to press your hand into mine, your body onto the bed where I could watch you, trace you with my eyes in hopes of making clocks melt and gas run out.

We spent the year in cars. Sometimes together, sometimes driving toward each other, but, in the end, driving away. The miles wore you down, your tires thin and my patience thinner. You began to leave while I stayed still. You faded and my smile sputtered like an engine with a dead battery in need of a jump.

In a car I lost you and in a car I found me—the me that will never stop riding in cars with you.

In a car we sat, wiping tears like windshield wipers flicking broken promises, ugly and wet, away from our vision. “I’m sorry,” you choked, and I tried to understand how this could be it, would be it, was it. All of the driving had worn you out, and you wanted to finish the cross-country trek across my soul, but you couldn’t remember how. And so in a car, I lost you.

But as your hand slid the gear into park and switched off the ignition heavy and tired, I found myself. I found the me that is you, that is this car we drive in with the doors locked and the cruise control set. Because even though you drove away, your tail lights dimming and blurring through my blinking eyes, we spend our lives in cars. Getting in and out, slowing down. Parking for a while, but always driving home.

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