for Cameron
In the graveyard for old cars, you scour the dashboards for habits. Things which die hard decompose slowly. Cellophane stacked in passenger-side doors, empty cigarette cartons, a receipt, an unsent letter—material which began but never got around to happening.
Grant leans against a broken hubcap, his cheeks flushed pink, a just-slapped blotch typical of fair complexions. He watches you with half-lidded eyes but you are not interested. There is more to find in the sunlit scrapyard than teenage excitement. Flecks of orange paint on the ground. Small metal screws and thingamabobs. His hand is on your ass but you clench against it. A flex-off.
“Come on,” he whispers low, a gravel-eating voice, guttural.
You try not to laugh at him. Stifle the giggle at a boy who is embarrassed and accelerated at the same time. The hot stench of summer-warmed rubber.
“Not now.” You try to crack the window— to jimmy down the glass so you get inside the door. “Help me,” you warn. As if.
He blushes again— and stiffen his shoulders. “I will if you will,” he says. “I’ll help you if you help me.” Strawberry blonde eyebrows edge towards the backseat. Something about a late 60’s model and pleather seats. They used leather back then.
“Fine,” you grant. All you want is to get inside the car.
Grant’s arm thickens in impatient grappling, veins rising like rivers on a museum map— the topography of teenage muscle, what a brochure might call the interactive version. Watch and wait.
The window shimmies down far enough so he can unlock the door. A click, the groan of metal on metal, an angle opens onto the scent of old carpet and spilled soda.
You shove past Grant towards the glove compartment. There is the perfect unlocking sound, a few yellowed road maps, a silver tire gauge, two pink rubber bands, a neoprene sewing kit, one single nickel gunked with brown. An inventory, at best.
Grant toys with the tire gauge and slips it inside his pocket. You shrug and stare at the space missing a steering wheel, but you feel Grant looking. You feel his restless, revved-up gaze. The urge for fireworks.
“Remember the time when we spent $70 on fireworks at that roadside stand and most of them didn’t work?”
He nods slow, a smile creepy as syrup across a diner.
You think maybe if you get this part over with, Grant won’t be distracted. You think maybe his attention will focus on helping you find the right story. A story worth writing.
Climbing over is easy. Panties slip down faster than PTA handshakes. Lean back and he knows the next part. Naked skin sticks to the backseat, and motion sounds slurp. Grant rubs his thumb over your belly-button like he can’t believe there are junkyards and naked bodies who want it.
The unzip is brisk, his bottom facing the roadway 800 feet away,and you doubt drivers will see much. Motion faraway is always a bird opening her wings—always an animal going somewhere.
No worries, you whisper, but hurry. The rush is not the same wanting but the wanting hovers there between you, however shaded.
When he glides in, you feel his knees tremble, the throttle of a key igniting the spark which starts combustion and sets off an engine. The sweat on his shoulder is acrid as nasty uncle t-shirts but you lick it anyway because he’s running you so hard your butt lifts from the seat. The smacking sound is your response to his key.
It sounds like clapping. In kindergarten, everyone clapped at the end of a story. Clapping and thanking the teacher for reading.
From the road, birds flutter and set off in flashes.
All adrenaline and smoked-up cigs, smacking and guttural groans, the coming explosion, the mounting noise and speed and signs you don’t bother to read. Grant knows where you’re going with his eyes closed. You can barely keep up. When his shoulder bangs into your jaw, you stop it with teeth. A hard bite. Like a woman sinking incisor into a fresh apple. One time and the boy is sunk. Grant moans like a dying heifer and liquid slicks your upper thighs. His weight covers you—pins you to the place he wanted.
You bite him again. He shudders. Convulses.
Get up, you shout. Because this is not a story. Sweat and smoked metal is no story you want to tell. What you do with Grant is purely mechanic en route to more interesting destinations. The sun burns your eyes.
From the road, a little girl who lost a front tooth points towards the stacked metal cars. Mommy, she says, oh mommy there’s a really pretty bird down in that car. One day the little girl will develop wings, and all birds became the same: a handful of tousled feathers, a head looking away.