Friday, July 1, 2005
I pushed in the clutch with my left foot, turned the key, shoved the gearshift into first, and peeled out of the dealership’s drive. I have new wheels. I am on the move. My minivan days are over, and my single-girl days have never been better. Sometimes, it feels funny to have the nurturing heart of a middle-age mom and the fluttering heart of a single forty-six-year-old debutante. I found a car that fits me. It’s a sedan, unblemished silver, sunroof, great stereo, side airbags, a spoiler in the back, and a stick shift. Donning my sunglasses, sunroof open, wind whipping through my hair, squealing tires on hot asphalt, I forget that I am a responsible member of society. I forget that people depend on me for their paychecks, for allowance, for remembering to put two drops in each of Kevin’s eyes four times a day. When I am alone in my new car, it’s all about me. It’s all about who I once was and who I want to be again. It’s all about being too young to feel too old for anything.
I had a date three weeks ago, one of those spontaneous ones that appear out of nowhere. One minute, I was chatting online with someone who winked at me from Match.com, and fifteen minutes later, I was outside sitting on my stone flower box waiting for him to pick me up to cruise through Dairy Queen.
As I sat there, Kevin and his buddies came careening by on their bicycles. Their six-pack of bikes screeched to a halt in my driveway as they all greeted me in chorus. I giggled with them as a gold SUV drove by slowly, a middle-age man peering intently out the window.
Please, don’t let that be him, I said in a silent prayer to the universe. I don’t like SUVs. I think they are gas hogs and bad for the environment. They imply an image to which I am simply not ready to succumb.
Next, a conservative, late-model GM sedan drove by with another middle-age man peering intently out the window.
Please, don’t let that be him, I said in another silent prayer to the universe. I have nothing against late-model GM cars nor conservative sedans, but somehow, I get the impression that those who drive them don’t laugh very much, don’t ever exceed the speed limit, and always play by the rules.
A black Corvette roared by, a middle-age man in dark sunglasses nonchalantly taking in the scenery.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that were him? I thought. Wouldn’t it be cool if that car pulled into my driveway, wowing my kid and his friends by vrooming out of the driveway and speeding me away for a two-hour vacation from domesticity?
My attention was pulled back to my boy and his buddies by Darius telling a joke that I strained to hear. He is two years older than Kevin, and sometimes, I wonder if the age difference gives Kevin more of an education than I’m ready for him to have.
I heard another car coming down the hill and turned to look. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the black Corvette come back around the block from the other direction, and lo and behold, it pulled into my driveway. My heart thumped. Other parts thumped.
I thought, Betsy Jeanne! What are you, sixteen or forty-six?
I’m thinkin’… maybe sixteen! That’s the last time I can remember my heart beating faster because of a car!
The boys crowded around the car, oohing and aahing.
I opened the passenger door and climbed in, getting a good look at the salt-and-pepper-haired man behind the sunglasses. I was thinking it’s pretty ballsy of me, climbing into the car of this man I’ve never met, only traded emails and IMs with; I closed my eyes for a second and felt the vibe. He’s a good guy. I’m relatively safe.
Darius says, “You put the hood back on your car.”
Midlife Crisis Guy says, “Whaa?”
Darius says, “Last time you were here, your car didn’t have a hood.”
My mind races. What on earth is he talking about? Then it hits me. My middle son’s best friend’s father has a souped-up Camaro—without a hood—and with a shiny black spit-polished engine for all the world to admire.
Midlife Crisis Guy looked at me quizzically.
“He thinks you are Phillip’s father,” I say matter-of-factly, as if Midlife Crisis Guy knows who the hell Phillip is, much less his father.
“Do you still have the loudspeaker?” Darius asks hopefully.
Last time Phillip’s dad was here, he wolf-whistled at me with his loudspeaker. I’ve known Phillip’s dad for ten years. He’s happily married, has never so much as winked at me, so there’s nothing to extrapolate other than a middle-aged married man doing one little manly thing for a single middle-age woman. I hope Darius hasn’t gotten me into trouble.
“My middle son’s best friend’s father has a souped-up black Camaro. Darius doesn’t know the difference between a Camaro and a Corvette.” I roll my eyes.
Midife Crisis Guy laughs. I sigh inwardly in relief.
We head for Dairy Queen. That’s what started this. We were IM’ing about cruising the DQ when we were teenagers, talking about how kids don’t cruise anymore. He makes the obligatory turn into DQ, pulls around the drive, and heads back out into traffic.
“Where to?” he asks. I smile to myself. I think he likes me.
We head for the highway. He stops and puts the top down. He shifts quickly, gathering speed and power. The ’Vette has six speeds. I’ve never driven a stick shift with more than four. I feel the familiar rush of takeoff, the physics of acceleration pushing me back against the fine black leather seat. My smile doesn’t fade but beams even brighter as we pull into the fast lane and he presses the pedal to the metal. My boys damn well better never drive like this, but with this guy, right now, I’m having one of those “time of my life” moments.
He takes me to Outback; we order the same thing. We talk about our kids, about our businesses, about our former lives as married people. I watch his eyes light up as he discusses his son’s adventures as a college student, observe how he uses his hands to express himself and how his eyes cloud over in pain as he slowly opens up about some issues with his brother. We talk about his passion for cars and my passion for writing.
He reads my blog; in fact, were it not for my blog, we wouldn’t be talking at all. We had exchanged winks, emailed once or twice, then I didn’t hear from him for a week and a half. I decided that he must not be interested, and if he wasn’t a PB (potential boyfriend), perhaps he might become a devoted reader, so I sent him my blog address. He wrote back a few days later, telling me that he was “mesmerized” by my writing and would I please go out with him.
So here we are. Ailing parents, recalcitrant exes, incredible children, unrepentant siblings, pressures of work, passions for hobbies in lieu of partners. We cover the gamut and get up to go.
We pulled into my driveway, and I invited him to sit with me on the bench by the fishpond. The fireflies were just beginning their evening’s entertainment, a mourning dove called plaintively, the stars began their slow trek across the night sky, and a half moon flickered its reflection in the pond at our feet. I sat back and looked at him. He looked at me, at my hair, at my eyes, then glanced down at my mouth. I smiled.
“You have the most beautiful eyes I think I have ever seen,” he said, just the right hint of wonder in his voice. “And such a lovely smile.”
This guy is good. I lowered my eyes and looked back up, just a hint of a smile turning up the corners of my mouth. But then, so am I.
“May I kiss you?” his voice caught in the back of his throat.
“I think I’d like that,” I whispered.
The orchestra cued, lightning flashed, the thunder just a few seconds behind. Droplets of rain began their descent. The top was still down on his Corvette.
“Will it take you long to get it up?” I queried, maternal concern winning out over budding passion.
“I don’t know, it’s been a while,” he said wryly.
My brow furrowed in confusion before the realization of my faux pas flooded my face in horror. You don’t kid around about that stuff with guys over forty-five. It’s just not funny to them.
I sat up straight. “Oh! I didn’t mean …!”
He pulled me back and kissed me soundly, laughing as he did so. “I know. I just couldn’t resist the joke. The way I figure it, those cows got wet when they were standing out in the field. I figure a little water now and then won’t hurt them a couple years later.”
Several minutes later, he backed out of my driveway and I headed inside to answer questions about the black Corvette and the half hour I sat with a PB next to the pond. My, how roles reverse sometimes as a single mom.
I haven’t seen him again. We’ve exchanged a few emails and a few IMs, and he still reads my blog, and he gave me permission to write this one. I asked before I even sat down to the keyboard.
I am enjoying being single, perhaps for the first time in my life. My new car is a lot like me right now: not exactly new, but still in pretty good shape. Elegant, but casual. Four doors, but with a sporty look, and the suspicion that the rules might bend a little once in a while, just for the fun of it.
After all, I can’t decide if I’m forty-six or still just sixteen.