Sticks II -Teen Paradise Lost

This was originally written as a Threadstart, the initial post for an in-game thread on the Davidson College Basketball message board.  That will help explain some of the references.  We were playing the University of NC at Wilmington.  The car is only a bit player in this story, but it was important in its own way.

In the Spring of 1964, my senior year in High School in Greenville SC, my Dad bought a new car.  He actually ordered it from the dealer, picking the options.  I really don’t think he had ever bought a new car before.  But what was amazing was that he bought what I wanted!  It was a Corvair Monza, 4 speed two door.  He actually popped for the high compression engine, the 110 HP version.  Considering that the family stable at the time consisted of a ’53 Chrysler and a ’56 Studebaker, I considered it a major step up.

My friends all wanted Chevy 409 Impalas and Pontiac GTO’s, but I of course heard a different drummer.  I had been allowed to drive a Porsche about a mile and a half a few years earlier, and I was a sports car guy.

The Corvair was not my car, of course, but I was allowed to drive it when it was available, and drive it I did.  I didn’t have to have an errand or a mission, I just drove, mostly in as curvy a place as I could find.  I learned my way around the shifter in about an hour, and it was speed-shift city from then on.  It was really a nice transmission for its time.

And She liked it too.  She and I were getting along pretty well, after a half year high school adversarial romance.  We had kind of finally decided we belonged together, and the summer was fun.  She liked to shift, so I would do the footwork and she would move us up the gears on command.  I let her actually drive once, until she refused to give it back.  Finally, She stopped at a light and I reached over and turned off the engine and pulled out the key.  She was not pleased.

In the Fall, I went off to Davidson and She was off to a small college in Alabama.  It never occurred to me that this might have some effect on our relationship.

We didn’t talk much, telephony being in its infancy in those times.  She was in a competition for “Class Favorite” and I sent her flowers, using the phone next to the furnace in the fratty-club basement and promising to mail a check to the florist the next day.  Times were different then.  She won, of course.

I got the bright idea of going to visit her unannounced. Even today, I consider this the single stupidest thing I have ever done, not counting momentary spur of the moment things. Using a combination of airline discount cards and hitchhiking I made it there without a problem, and She was actually glad to see me.  We had a nice weekend, but getting back entailed a whole lot more excitement than I was counting on, although it turned out OK in the end.

For Christmas, somehow a plan was developed, although I don’t completely remember how.  I stayed at Davidson, and She drove up to get me in the Corvair.  I have to point out that my parents really liked her, probably better than they liked me.  They thought She was a good influence on their socially awkward son.

It started really well.  She made it to campus, and I took over my rightful driver’s seat.  We went in to Charlotte for a nice dinner in an actual fancy restaurant.  I was on a roll, quite full of myself.  We drove back to campus, and I found a nice dark “parking spot”.

I have to point out that considering the times, and the two people involved, there was no possibility of any activity with potential medical or procreative consequences.  But I did expect, considering the evening’s events, a bit of serious smooching.  I mean, a lot of serious smooching.

Instead, She kind of huddled against the passenger door, and said quietly, but firmly, “I don’t love you anymore”.

Now, that’s a statement that doesn’t really allow for a lot of clever rebuttal and counter arguments.  There’s just not a whole lot you can say.  I certainly couldn’t think of anything to say, as most of my teenaged world crumbled around me.

Words failed me, but I did still know how to drive, and that seemed like the only thing left.  I backed out of my now irrelevant secluded refuge, and ran up through the gears.  We then proceeded to cover a wide swath of the countryside around the college.

First, second, third, fourth, and then hope for curves.  Stop sign ahead, third, second, first.  Pick a turn, right or left, kick it up again through the gears.  There was no conversation, just an air of mutual loss and the muffled drumbeat of the exhaust.

I didn’t offer to let her shift.

I’ve always had a pretty good compass in my head, and after what seemed like a very long time, or maybe it was a very short time, we were parked in front of the house where She was staying.  There was not a lot of conversation at the door.

I picked her up the next morning and we headed home.  I-85 is pretty much a top gear run, so I didn’t have the helpful distraction of shifting.  I could have used some distraction, as the conversation was pretty sparse.  We stopped for lunch in Gastonia, at a restaurant where I had eaten before with the high school football team. It didn’t seem as good an idea as it had when I was planning the weekend.  I still have an unfair grudge against Gastonia.

We got back to Greenville, but I can’t remember the logistics involved after that.  That next summer I made an unannounced visit to the summer camp where She was working.  She was neither amused nor interested.  I haven’t seen her since, in the intervening 50 years.

The Corvair didn’t seem to care about all the teenage drama.  I drove it in the summers, and actually was able to have it at Davidson for my senior year.  It went to Canada for Expo ’67 and slid into a ditch on the Blue Ridge Parkway (earning me a distinctive and rare Federal traffic ticket).  I crunched the left side headlights in the snow coming back from a basketball game in Greensboro, and backed the left taillights into a very strong bumper on the Davidson campus.  It was pretty ragged by early 1969, when it served as the trade-in for the Porsche.

And as for She, I got over it relatively quickly.  After all, there are a lot of streetcars in the sea.  As I got older, those old memories were eclipsed by much worse new memories which involved multiple lawyers and venues.  I didn’t think about She much.  But with the advent of the ‘net, searching for old friends got to be a lot easier and more  anonymous.  Killing time one night, I did manage to track She down a bit, and found about what I expected, a nice stable life with a husband and kids.  I’m not bitter at all, and wish She well.  I’ve never tried to make any kind of contact, but there is one thing about She’s current life that I noticed.

Wait for it…

Here it comes…

She lives in Wilmington.

Go Cats!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.