First Car, First Boyfriend

kate keating pullquoteMy first car was a bug–eyed Austin Healey Sprite. I got it when I was 18. My first boyfriend was a blue–eyed artist named John. I got him when I was 17.

I bought my first car from my first boyfriend, because he couldn’t afford it any more. That should have been my first clue that both the car and the boyfriend would end up to be quite costly. The car looked cool, but was unreliable, except when it ran great for a few weeks at a time whenever I got it back from my mechanic. The boyfriend looked cool too (he was an artist), but was unreliable all of the time.

I had fun riding around in my car with the top down, even when it was raining. That was the best, because the rain would kind of whiz by, and I got to ponder the question posed in calculus class, as to whether I became more wet while driving or when at a stop. I used to love driving up Mt. Tamalpais as fast as the car would corner to watch the sunset at the end of the day. This is the scenic and windy road where all the car ads are shot—now I know I was living a dream.

My favorite place to park was on the narrowest shoulder on the most radical cliff on the ocean side of the road, just a few inches from the drop. After watching the sun disappear behind the ocean, I’d take the turns down towards Alpine Lake, then cut the engine and skid as precipitously as possible through the last hairpin turn to see how far I could coast across Alpine Dam without using the gas. Paused on the dam, I would relish the quiet for a few moments before continuing the descent in the cool evening air.

When my first boyfriend crashed my car for the first time, I had it fixed, and the whole thing was painted in its original beautiful blue. When he crashed it for the second time, it was declared a total. I went on to get a new old car, but didn’t have the smarts to realize I should have gotten a new boyfriend as well. The new car was a beat up Volkswagon van with broken side windows, a back bumper made out of a rotting 2×4 and worn bucket seats that had been lifted from a Chevy truck. The seats had become “buckets” from years of use—you sunk into the driver’s seat so far that it was difficult to apply any pressure to the gas and brake pedals. No worries.

When my first boyfriend crashed my second car, I wasn’t so upset. The disturbing part was that I had to go to court with him, because it was my car. The good news was that the mangled driver’s door still closed, and it was no big deal that it wouldn’t lock, because the windows never locked anyway. When my first boyfriend crashed the next time, he was driving his uncle’s ‘57 Chevy Belair. I guess I had smartened up a bit—he wasn’t driving my car.

I had learned about the unreliability of British cars and my first boyfriend those early years. I parted with the first boyfriend and have never owned a British car since. However, years later I did have a British boyfriend, who proceeded to crash my BMW sports coupe. In a show of hard won maturity, I did finally dump him, as he had proved to be more unreliable than my first car and my first boyfriend put together, but that’s another story.

Kate Keating

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