Where is my kickboxing man in a loose and slouchy brown cotton-blend with spacious hemmed sleeves ideal for layering and available from prime jackets dot com for one hundred and thirty-nine dollars? Where is my romantic gesture, outmatching a gifted pen? A decade ago I asked certain men to teach me to drive stick in the church parking lot on the south edge of town, down at the end of Quaker Avenue, the road I used to drive in my ninety-one Nissan Sentra which was an automatic all the way out to the tiny town where I cut my teeth and where I’d count shooting stars on monkey bars which sounds romantic but none of my wishes came true and the cold metal left bruises on my butt. None of the men who tried to teach me how to drive were Lloyd Dobler, by which I mean they didn’t love me, not with their whole hearts, not with their idealistic souls, not enough to hold a boombox up outside of my house in the twilight playing the song about my eyes that we listened to after we lost our virginity, while the suggestion of a summer breeze teased the long hems of their slouchy brown cotton-blend.
Have you ever met a man like Lloyd Dobler? A man who moves the glass from your path where it’s broken? A man with a mouth that pouts just so? A man that’s pined for you from the shadows all your high school years, while you were busy studying hard and spending daddy’s hard stolen money on responsible purchases, like pens? Or were you in the shadows too, with thirty racks and fire pits, coughing over bongs or American Spirit blacks, sneaking your best friend back into her house where she broke her glasses and wouldn’t have gotten caught if it weren’t for that and the fact that she left again after you were gone and walked her neighborhood singing in a blackout and waking up your first grade teacher and her parents but at least she didn’t say your name when they asked how she broke her glasses, and when they took away her phone they texted you first to tell you she was grounded but she could call you once a week, and Lloyd Dobler could never pine for you ‘cause he couldn’t see you through all those shadows?
The men who tried to teach me stick loved me in these various ways: like a sister which I couldn’t understand because I’ve never been a sister, never had a sibling, never will; like a best friend, someone they wouldn’t want to fuck things up with they said, not realizing that the nothing of a decade fucks things up just as much as fucking does; like a best friend they totally want to fuck but not like, anything else, you know; like someone who paid them sixty bucks to drive out to the strip and buy them a bottle of whiskey and then teach them how to drive stick; like my mother, who is not a man, but who tried to teach me how to drive stick on that dirt road, a quarter mile back and forth, back and forth, popping the clutch and lurching to a halt every time. I never even really switched gears. Mom would drive us back home and I’d be fuming in the passengers seat and texting my crush who would never fly across the world with me if my daddy was caught stealing money from old people, which would never happen, neither my daddy stealing money from old people nor a flight across the world, and definitely not with a man next to me holding my hand so I didn’t scream, but I would ride a lonely train from Texas to Vermont and spend a lonely year looking for Lloyd in red cups filled with vodka flavored by jolly ranchers and crying in tree crooks and calling my best friend, her voice cutting out ‘cause the service was shit, and taking two hits of acid on a bad bottle of wine and waking up in my bed wearing nothing while a boy I can’t stand reads me James Joyce.
I never learned to drive stick.