OBSESSED WITH SPORTS CARS
During the summer of ’63, when I was 15, I picked up my pace as I approached Albright and Wood’s drugstore. Sweat ran circles under my arms and trickled down my back. Entering the double doors, the air conditioning almost artic, the checkered black and white marble tiles greeted me. Familiar like a pair of old friends, I knew my way.
Something new stood out as I approached the old, oak magazine rack. Letters in red, bold italic, above a glossy picture of a sports car shouted out “Road and Track.” The pages slowly turned me as I entered a new world; everyone spoke the same language, never obtuse. The cast was sports cars and Formula One racing. Tension riveted me to the marble squares. Cars as mere transportation vanished; they became sculptures in steel yearning for movement, they lived. I fed on performance; my imagination lived in exotic Europe. Superior to the kids happy with a ’55 Chevy, I hungered, and a teen who didn’t drive or know a clutch from a carburetor harvested sports cars.
Henry N. Manny narrated Formula One and I always laughed, as he started each article, “Practice was the usual shambles.” Manny’s words rendered the essence, clicking out the soul, the speed and danger of racing, as he typed. Racers, like soldiers, respected fear but entered its embrace in search of fragments of greater speed.
I cut grass for Mrs. Larson and often walked by an English sports car, a red Triumph TR3A, my true love. Elegantly appointed with leather and walnut inside, it possessed no other features unrelated to performance. It was a sublime study in sexy curves, and I vowed to own a drop-top sports car. Those were the days for this kid.
Decades later, I stood at Carmax in Albuquerque and stared in lust at a silver Nissan 350Z convertible with only 800 miles on it, waiting for my test drive. Speeding onto I-25, the air bossed my hair. The “Z” responded as a horse to a calf roper, everything seemed muscular, instantaneous and responsive to my every touch. Tires biting, it wanted to eat curves, as I tapped the brakes. “You’ll have to buy it to drive like that,” warned Ben the salesman. “I plan to,” I said, breaking another speed limit. The clock crept through time until I grasped tossed keys, my keys.
Having lived in Europe, thrilled to visit racetracks like distant cousins, I finally owned a sports car. My butt settled into the leather; the panorama of the interior held me quiet for a moment. Exhaust pipes rasped tires chirped and caressed asphalt to Santa Fe, and with a smile, I trusted there were no cops on the road.
Exiting St. Michael’s drive toward Albuquerque one autumn afternoon, fields of bright, yellow sunflowers painted a beautiful canvas. Accosting the accelerator, the speedometer passed the century mark. How passé. I-25 seemed a deserted brushstroke of gray. I kept at speed; passing 125, my hair hit me as a thousand tiny whips. Road bumps disappeared at 155. Deserted, as electronics cut further speed; I knew it would do170, if left to its own rapacious desire. Like sipping love potion #9, I was in love. Converging on a turnoff, I forsook gas and gave the brakes my full attention shrugging off more speed, as if I was typeset in the pages of “Road and Track”.
My left foot braced, flying into a tight right curve; I fought the steering wheel, and marveled as gravity pushed my eyes to the left. Downshifting, tossing off speed, I attacked Cerrillos Road. It was a special moment; exhilarated from the rush of speed, I grinned as if I lost my virginity.
Delighted to publish this piece, which came via Terry Wilson. She writes: I gave the Eng. 120 class the topic of Obsessions (from Writing Down the Bones chapter on that) and this is one student’s piece.
Hoping to have more from this class. Thank you Terry–and most of all, thank you writer Rich Smith.