Each time my emotions threaten to run away with me, she would say “Keep your heels on!” This somewhat obscure admonishment, to add to the mystery, is rooted in my style of driving. I drive like a guy, only faster and a lot more aggressively. I drive a sports car, a cabriolet, or should I say, since it’s French, a décapotable. It is quite fast and it produces a deep roar when I rev the engine up. I lose weight driving this car.
The one I have is the second I bought in this type. I bought it following two years of burning the value as well as a few tangible parts of the first at more than two times normal economic and technical depreciation rates. I exchange my heels for flats when getting behind the wheel. There is no relation with female to male driving style travesty. The way I drive it, this machine is simply impossible to operate in heels. My friend got fed up with it. After our last ride together, which had seen some very challenging maneuvers on my part, she refused to be my passenger ever again. “No thanks, but do keep your heels on!”, she would say a next time I invited her for a ride.
Once upon a time, in summer, driving into a town, I passed a car, a BMW. Going by the license plate, I estimated it to be 8 to 10 years old, meaning close to total shutdown. Approaching a red light, I overtook the BMW at moderate speed. I looked inside the car. Behind the wheel was a man with curly black hair. As far as I could make out from my less than perfect vantage point, he was in his early thirties, not unattractive. He looked back at me. He had been driving sloppily before I overtook him. He had seemed glued to the left lane. I had decided to cut past him on the right. But when I made to execute the maneuver he veered to the right and started hogging the middle of the road. I had a distinct impression he didn’t do it on purpose, that, rather, he just wasn’t paying attention, as if car driving weren’t so different from beach bumming. Only when we approached the traffic light, did he move all the way to the right. He never used his blinkers to signal a lane change. Soon after I had pulled up from the lights I signaled and merged back into the right lane traffic. Checking my sideview mirror I saw the BMW steer out to the left – no signal; it passed me slowly but at a speed which was in excess of the speed limit. Having reached city limits I moved back the gear shift, pressed down the gas and speeded up at maximum acceleration. I shifted up gears, shaving the rpm’s rise just before they peaked, provoking the engine’s thoroughly satisfied growl from deep down that I coveted. In seconds I found myself behind the BMW again. This time the driver, on my approach, fell into the right lane, throwing a brief glance at me as I passed him. I imagined I could feel his frustration at his decrepit BMW being no match to my fast little convertible, driven, to add insult to injury, by a woman.
A week later he called at my door. I invited him in. He was perfectly at ease. He took in the interior design of the large hallway with interest. I didn’t know what to make of him. We sat down at the large table in the dining room, which is where I receive all my guests.
“How did you find out where I live?”
“I guessed”, he said.
“Not the exact address, of course”, he replied. “but I saw you take the exit in the direction of O**. I guessed that’d be where you live, and that it would be in this neighborhood, with all its detached villas. It’s just a couple of streets. It didn’t take me 15 minutes of cruising to spot your car. If I’d erred on the first step of my little deduction, I wouldn’t have traced you in 15 years of course.”
“It took you a week to call at my door. Are you sure you didn’t spend a week working from the license plate?”
“I didn’t. I just wasn’t in a hurry.”
“To do what?“
“To look you up.”
Look me up?”
“I saw you in your car. Keep your hat on, girl, I thought. God, you looked so uptight and angry behind the wheel! I came… to convert you.”
“You came … to convert me?”
I looked at his face. It was not the face of a madman or a charlatan. It wasn’t the face of an adventurer. It was the face of a boy giving it a shot for the hell of it, a soft and uncomplicated face, honest, under the nicest and most beautiful head of hair I’ve ever seen on a man. He wasn’t guilty of anything. I didn’t think he ever would be.
“I ran a quick scan on my risks”, he said.
“I’m not perpetrating. I haven’t asked to be let in under a false pretext. I’m not threatening you. I’m not harassing you. I’m not really even here to convert you to love. It’s just that I suddenly found myself saying a foolish thing like that. I’ll leave this place the instant you tell me to. But see that old BMW outside? It’s a car I have. Someone told me it’s between 8 and 10 years old. Can you believe there are people who can tell such things by what’s on the license plate? Probably a matter of where you put your priorities in life. Anyway, it’s an old bum of a car. But it takes me from A to B, like from me to you. I wasn’t really coming to visit you though. I made that up. I was on my way to the beach. I took a shortcut through this street. Well, it’s a shortcut if you ignore the one-way traffic sign. Ah, sorry about that! Seeing your car, that was pure coincidence. Then I thought it might be nice to call in. I felt it’d be such a waste of the glances we exchanged not to. Do you want to come with me?”
“Yes”, I said, rising.
“Good, but you better take off those heels. They won’t take you far, not on the beach.”
“I think I’ll keep them on, though”, I said. “I’ll bring a pair of old flats. Give me a minute. They are in my car. I’ll change when we get to the beach.”
We drove to the seaside, less than ten minutes from where I live.
“You’re driving in the middle of the road”, I said. ”I think someone’s behind us who’s anxious to pass.”
“Oh boy!”, he exclaimed, unconcerned, and, looking over his right shoulder, his black curls swishing against my cheek, he pulled into the right lane. He didn’t signal. I leant over to him. I brushed his cheek with my lips. His warm curls caressed my nose.
“I don’t mind that”, he said. “I don’t mind that at all.”