|Avond (Evening): The Red Tree, by Piet Mondrian|
The rag top was tattered and frayed, but once shone with a brilliant white sheen that held the elements at bay and the sounds of youthful exploration and delight to a shallow rumble. I remember feeling the rush of cool air blowing around the windshield when I would take it out on the road with the top down and the sun at my back, seeing the road of promises being devoured with each conquered mile. Now it was difficult to see through all the cracks in the glass.
I remember squealing the tires every chance I could; tearing up the roads and going places without a care in the world or a destination in mind. There was nothing quite like the feeling of an idle small-block’s purr at a red-light, or feeling its meaty growl once challenged and the wild horses were unleashed. It gave me freedom and confidence, but now it sat idle, its tires well worn and flat, and its engine seized with sludge and gilt.
I remember a lot of things about my old Mustang, but mostly I remember Adeline.
It was our first date. At least that’s how I liked to remember it. I had spent the better part of the afternoon washing and waxing the Mustang, my Saturday summer ritual, and decided to take her for a spin. I was mighty proud of the old Stang and wanted to show her off to the world as much as I could. As I was cruising down the road I came across an old park, and that’s when I saw her.
She was sitting alone under a tree reading a book. My heart skipped a beat followed by a blaring horn from the car behind me. In my excitement I had unknowingly stopped in the middle of the road. I pulled to the side and parked, deciding what to do next. She hadn't seen me yet, so I could have easily driven away without her knowing, but something froze me in place. It was a mixture of fear and desire.
I had always admired her from afar, but couldn't bring myself to approach her. She was quiet and shy, and wasn't particularly beautiful. She wasn't involved in any school activities or sports, or part of the cool crowd in school. In fact, she wasn't a part of any crowd; a loner, an outcast. She was everything I wasn't, yet she was my everything.
Courage took a hold of my senses and dared me into action. I approached her with a smile and a skip in my step, but below boiled a cauldron of insecurity and terror. These feelings were foreign to me; nevertheless, they made me feel alive. The moment she looked at me through those big framed glasses my heart was defenseless.
We sat beneath that old oak tree for hours, laughing and talking until the sun found its resting place. I took her for an evening ride, cruising through town, showing her all my favorite getaways. Every Saturday after that we would meet under that big oak tree to talk and then head off to explore the open roads and our hearts. That tradition continued all through the summer until I asked her to be my bride.
It’s been twenty years since the last time I took Adeline for a ride in my Mustang.
Like many evenings since that day, I’ll turn the light off in the garage and head to bed, alone.
Michael A. Walker