I’m holding my Diet Coke, and he’s fingering a French fry. Everything’s red in us: the car’s exterior, its interior. Me. It’s our first date and we’re on our way to the movies. He’s driving his dad’s old car and it’s like everything is many years behind us. Behind the wheel, he reminds me the car is a 1958. A Plymouth Fury.
He’s a senior. I’m a freshman. It’s my first date ever. He’s given me the Shawano Evening Leader, said to pick a movie.
He’s kind of hot. I’m new to the public school, having just finished eighth grade at St. Paul’s Lutheran, where I was salutatorian, and the boy I had a crush on was valedictorian only by a fraction. I held hands with him once, on the bus, and he used to leave notes in my desk, along with squares of Bubble Yum. I kissed another boy, one time, in the woods—we used to have little meet-ups, people having people over after school in town so we could learn what it felt like to kiss, feel parts of other people’s bodies, when we told our parents we were together doing extra homework.
But this is new territory. I’m on a date with Jimmy, and he has his license. And a car! And we’ve driven to Green Bay, which is miles away.
My mom lives in Green Bay now. I’m still staying at the farm, with my dad, until the end of the semester. My dad had a breakdown at church at St. Paul’s on the Fourth of July, sitting next to me, and then my algebra teacher took him and my mom to the hospital while my sister and I sat there for the rest of the service.
It’s kind of thrilling to be here in this car with this guy who is much older and is probably on his way to do something else with his life after graduation. I don’t know what it’s going to be like for me, after moving. I live on a farm. With dairy cows and goats and a dog and tons of kittens. It’s been in the family for over a hundred years. Soon, it will be auctioned. My dad’s parents, since he’s kind of sick, and my mom’s divorcing him, and I’m moving in with her, have decided to disown me.
I’m so nervous. I don’t know which movie to choose. I’ve only been to a couple other movies: Mary Poppins and Lady and the Tramp. I have lots of chores to do on the farm. And with cross country, going to church, and homework, and 4-H, I really don’t get out much.
We’ve gone through the McDonald’s drive-through. He said he was starving. I look at the paper, and choose the movie Christine.
“Nice choice,” he says, wiping his hands on a napkin.
We sit in the back of the theater, and I don’t know what to say. The car in the movie looks just like Jimmy’s. Red in the inside, red on the outside. It’s a 1958 Fury. The car takes a persona of its own and its doors lock themselves in on me.
Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections OH BABY, VEER, PRETTY, PISTOL, SHOT GIRLS and WETSUIT. She’s the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, Chief Editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal), and Senior Editor of New World Writing. She co-directs the writing major at SUNY-Buffalo State and serves as a Board Member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs as Northeast Regional Chair.