For this story, you need to understand one point; the car is real. Everything else is made-up. When I look back and decide not to tell this story, the only thing I cannot rearrange is the car. More solid than memory. Built Ford tough. The car was old even then. Older than my seventeen years. My name is unimportant. The girl. Her name is not clearly recalled. But if I did remember it, I would give her a false one. The car refuses to be anonymous. It was a maroon, ‘67 Mustang. Hard top. Lead gas. Automatic transmission. Fading chrome. It had the amenities of a monk’s chamber: steering wheel, gas pedal, four tires, engine. Do you need anything else?
In that car, 0 to 60 was a figment of the imagination (just like the rest of this story). It lived on the edges of the respectable. It only breathed properly when air was pounding at 65 miles an hour or harder. The back window was epoxied shut. The moorings of the passenger seat were broken, so that it moved back and forth like a rocking chair. Every miniscule pothole was a lesson in seismic activity. And the girl, sitting in the rocking chair passenger seat, was thrown up and down. Seatbelts were present, but didn’t click shut. This was never about safety. This was about appearance. In this car, even I had the appearance of factory finish good looks.
We were beautiful. A complete fashion makeover as provided by Detroit Motorworks. We were beautiful, and Icarus was my co-pilot.
I was gripping the steering wheel, pointed home. It was time to go home. We were trying to end the day as quickly as we could. The car was happy to oblige. Out of the three of us, it was the only one talking. The rumble of engine. The hiss of tire on asphalt. It singing the song of freedom and future.
We were not listening. We were wrapped in our moment of conclusion. Planning how we would rewrite this moment. Make it imaginary.
The girl and I played with words at her doorway. We’d call each other soon. And then I was at the reservoir, sitting on the car’s hood, chucking stones into the dark void of water I believed was in front of me. Not hearing nor recalling them hitting the skin of the lake.
Memory is a V8. With age, the pistons will misfire. The girl is gone. The story I have not told is gone. And some days I am sure that I am gone. A piece of adolescent fiction. But 67 Mustang. Full of substance and motion.
We are tales we do not tell each other. Everything is negotiable. But the car is always real.
Dave Macpherson lives in Worcester, MA with his wife Heather and son George.