(A poem about sex and God and marriage)
Not even old enough to drive
When it rounded a corner and rolled by
Beautiful, loud, and full of promise,
I stood there gape mouthed and moon eyed,
Starting at the rumbling fury that was a Hot Rod Mustang
And that which would become my obsession.
I told my friends and they told me,
For they too had glimpsed those hopped up and fanciful cars.
We speculated what it would be like to drive such splendid machines,
All of us projecting unveiled assumptions with feigned expertise.
Ricky, the kid down the street, even claimed to have even driven one,
When he was away on vacation the past summer,
But we all called him liar, liar
Despite him saying, I swear to God,
Honest I did, really.
Ricky did have magazines, though, lots of them
With full-color photographs of incredibly hot rides
That we perused feverously, lavishing our attentions
On those glossy fantastic images.
Those cars were not like the ones our parents drove, mind you,
Though we knew they actually did drive,
For that is what mothers and fathers do.
Those muscle cars were truly of another kind,
Leaping from the page,
Full of heat, speed, thunder, and rancid tire smoke.
One time I snuck into a movie theatre,
Dark with vile sticky floors,
Where a hot rod Mustang flashed across the screen.
Fishtailing with tires squealing,
That car flat out hauled ass down the road
Launching airborne over hills, banging back down on the shocks,
Lurching and swerving and rocking before sliding sideways
To a sudden desperate stop.
I now know what I saw simply was not real.
Multiple cars wrecked in the filming
Stunt drivers suffered horrific injuries
Strategic camera angles accentuated every lunge and turn.
But something about that movie and all those magazines
Gave me expectations about the automotive experience
No amount of public school drivers’ education could correct.
Then I discovered a hot rod Mustang in my father’s garage.
We were estranged at the time, so I would sneak over to his place
And peer through the window at the car parked in shadows.
Eventually I jimmied open the door, slinked inside
And actually touched the hot rod Mustang.
The door was unlocked, so I got behind the wheel, grabbed the shifter
And imagined nighttime cruises with a girl beside me,
Her long hair blowing in the wind.
I took a real girl to the garage not long after
And we did just about everything in that car except actually drive.
I found the keys in the glove box,
Started the engine,
And we got all hot and bothered in the garage,
Nearly poisoning ourselves on exhaust.
We were still too young to be legal,
When our excitement mounted to a frenzy,
And I pushed open the garage door,
Rolled the car out on the street
Banging and grinding the gears.
We almost wrecked before we got the thing back inside.
It was such a fiasco,
You would have thought we’d have given up on the Mustang.
In a way, we did, because after that bleak anti-climactic day,
We never got in the Mustang again, though she did ride in cars with other boys.
I found another with whom to ride.
We put serious mileage on the car,
Did all kinds of things my father wouldn’t have approved of
While courting both exhilaration and disaster alike,
But we convinced ourselves otherwise.
Other girls followed
And the Mustang was driven far too hard
Until my father barged in.
He knew all along what I was doing.
Why didn’t you say anything? I asked
He said I already knew I wasn’t supposed to be driving that car
And I wouldn’t have listened anyway.
He made it plain I was his son,
That he loved me
And even though I had used that word so much,
I had no idea what it even meant.
You ready to listen, now? He asked.
Yes, I replied.
Stay away from that car, until I say otherwise.
For the most part I did stay away,
But others drove hot rods like they stole them
Busting up everything and leaving others to pay.
Occasional women tried to coerce me into taking them for a ride,
Sometimes laughing as they spoke.
Maybe they saw me as a challenge,
Or even worse, a charity case.
I have to admit, I kept thinking about that Mustang,
Even while shunning the movies and magazines.
Memory was my own dank theatre I kept finding myself in
Before walking out and squinting in the light.
When I finally got married,
My father awarded me the keys to the hot rod Mustang.
My wife and I drove a lot, especially during our first year together.
Mostly it was quite wonderful,
Except I would remember the way this one girlfriend
Used to throw her head back when I shifted gears:
My wife didn’t do that;
I wondered if the guys she used to ride with had bigger engines.
We worked through it all, one piece at a time,
Because the Mustang requires maintenance,
But I’d have to say it’s been a good ride.
Now, the hot rod Mustang is parked a lot of the time.
It’s not what you’d call a daily driver,
But we still relish our rides together.
Sometimes, just a quick jaunt to the corner, sometimes a nice long cruise,
We’ve made the car our own and no one else’s.
There was this kid, though, just the other day,
Who gawked as we rolled by,
Standing nearly motionless on the pedals of his bike,
Transfixed by the hot rod Mustang.
I wanted to tell him,
Yeah, the ride is pretty darn cool,
Just don’t get too worked up about it
Because there’s a whole lot about life
And especially love
That doesn’t have anything
To do with a hot rod Mustang.