The crush I had on my dad faded when I was a teenager. I was selling shoes at Hutzler’s Department Store and met a startlingly handsome man. He had dark hair and eyes as blue as my father’s. His voice was soft, jovial. He smiled as he leaned on the counter, next to me, writing receipts. I was a wreck and I did not want the evening to end.
When the store closed, he asked if he could walk me out. At the store’s entrance, he told me he’d see me again if I was working the next day.
I was three years from getting my driver’s license. My dad was my chauffer, but I told him not to come the second day of the shoe sale unless I called him.
The following evening, I walked through the store again with the handsome man. I told him I had to call my dad for a ride. Tilting his head, he smiled at me, “I’ll drive you home. Where do you live?”
He pushed one of the department store’s double glass doors for me and there was my dad’s 1962 Chevy Impala. The car rolled slowly up to the wide concrete curb by the store’s entrance.
My dad’s window was down, “Oh. You have a ride.” He was cheerful, matter-of-fact. The car never stopped and he drove away. I was stunned. Embarrassed. Furious at my dad.
I could feel the cold pavement through the soles of my shoes. It was winter. February. 1972. “That was my dad,” I finally said.
He nodded, “He probably just wanted to be sure his little girl was all right.”
My embarrassment lifted and I followed him through the parking lot to an identical Chevy Impala, the same year as my dad’s. He opened the passenger side door for me and I slid in.
On our first date, we went to an Italian restaurant. I followed him into the room. It was romantically dark. We had a corner table that was enclosed in a booth and we sat side-by-side. The thrill that had surprised me when I met him grew into something else: desire as it had been described in love songs. Powerful. Consuming.
I have no recollection of what we discussed. I do remember that neither of us could finish our meals. Though the brown paper bags into which our left-overs were saved were placed before each of us at the table, we forgot them.
He walked into the room as I was reading at a literary event and sat in the last seat next to the door. I had not expected him and I glanced up to see him fold himself into a desk. He was so tall, his leg – which was bent at the knee – was higher than the flat, plywood desk attached to his seat. His elbow on the desk top, he held his head in one hand, smiling at me.
Time stopped when we kissed. We spent hours on the couch in my parent’s living room which was off limits to everyone else. My father mentioned more than once that we “played the parlor” a lot.
On St. Patrick’s Day, my parents and I were guests of his parents and him at the Sparrows Point Country Club.
The days grew longer and warmer. That summer, I rode to a lacrosse tournament in the backseat of a Volkswagen. As we neared the field, a 1962 Chevy Impala made a right turn, perpendicular to us. I was shocked to see who was driving.
“Beep! Beep at that car!” I shouted, tapping the driver on his shoulder.
He turned slightly to ask me, “What? Who is it?” He was the boyfriend of the girl who sat next to him; my best friend. She leaned over and sounded the horn.
I waved. I could see his blue eyes through the Chevy’s windshield. He was frowning. Puzzled.
I do not know if he recognized me, but I remember diving onto the floor between the front and back seats, “Stop! Don’t beep anymore!”
In the Chevy Impala, seated beside him in the center of the front seat — a seat I had occupied too many times to count – was a girl with long, dark hair. She leaned on his shoulder.
(This was first published in Baltimore Fishbowl. Republished with permission.)