Embarrassmonth: Trying To Impress A Girl With My Car
“Got it for $7,000!” I said. I was walking, or floating, beside Jenny and her bouncy, curly blond hair across the parking lot.
“A Camaro! Sweet, Matt! And it’s green, my favorite color!” Jenny kept her hands in her pockets as she gently kicked the tire. “Yep, looks like a perfect fit for giving me a ride home.”
She always said funny, folksy things.
“Yep!” I rocked back and forth on the parking curb in front of it. School let out a half hour earlier. There were enough people that my heart was waving flags in the air like it was directing in a 747 to its landing, hoping everyone would see me near a cute girl and a hot car.
“Well, you just going to stand there or are you going to take me for a ride in this thing?”
“Oh, yea, of course. Um, get on in!”
She pulled on the door handle. It was a 1994 model so the body was more curved than prior years. Pure sleek. Perfect for impressing Jenny, and I needed it. We were dating a few weeks earlier but then she gave me the “it’s not you, it’s me” talk.
“Oh, man! And a CD player! You really are living in luxury, Matt Rennes!” she said, a bit of tongue-in-cheek in her words. That’s how she spoke and it made me melt because her words were always covered by a bubbling brook of warm water.
Deep down I knew she wasn’t the type to swoon over a car, but this was my hope. She broke up with me and remained close but was always just out of arm’s reach. Perhaps this could impress her enough for me to put my arms around her.
“Oh, and it’s stick shift!” she said. “So you learned how to drive stick, too?”
Butterflies awoke in my stomach.
“Yea. Pretty much. I mean, my dad took me to a parking lot last weekend. I got the hang of it. Pretty much.”
“Really? Because it’s tough. Not for the weak of heart,” Jenny said.
There was that tongue-in-cheek again. But she was also serious. I know from first-hand experience. In the parking lot Dad tried to keep agitation from his voice as I played footsie with the clutch and gas pedals and killed the engine no less than 20 times. But he cut it loose a couple times and my nerves were held together by a thread.
“Oh, I know,” I said to Jenny. And the butterflies began to flutter. I turned the key. My sweaty palm gripped the gear shift, as my foot pressed the clutch to the floor and my right foot rested on the gas. I pulled hard on the gear shift and aimed for reverse, but apparently not hard enough because as I pressed the accelerator the engine revved like a crotch rocket. But I didn’t go anywhere. A bead of sweat rolled down my forehead.
“Oh, ha, reverse,” I muttered.
“Yea, those things are tricky,” she said.
I yanked harder but apparently too early as the gears began to grind. After a few long moments I tried again, this time definitely further back, I thought. So I pressed the accelerator again and eased off the clutch. But the car jerked and died.
Then came another bead of sweat. And another.
Jenny and I sat silently for a moment.
“Hey, um, I didn’t mention this, but my dad taught my stick a couple years ago,” she said.
I carefully looked over at her.
“Yea. Just in case I needed to drive his truck. Want me to give it a go?”
An alarm began to sound. I could not give up the driver’s seat. My chances of wooing her may have been slim to none at that point, but that would completely erase them.
“Nah. Got it.” I said between heavy breaths. Blood rushed to my head. I started over. Turned the key. Sweaty palm on gear shift. Gas pedal. Jerk. Silence.
Sweat dripped into eyes.
“Matt, come on. I won’t think any less of you. Just let me give it a shot.”
Without a word I turned the ignition once more. I released the clutch, pressed the gas and held my breath. It was herky and jerky but it went. And went. And we got out of the parking space.
“Woo hoo! Matt Rennels is an all-star!” Jenny said. I looked over and melted. What a heart. I could move a mountain for this girl.
But it turned out I couldn’t move a car. When I released the clutch and pressed the gas the car shook and died.
“Sure you don’t want me to drive, Matt?”