It started in the 8th grade. A bottle of Strawberry Hill Boone’s in hand, I stood outside of Eddie Peña’s house and hoped my crush would come. I wallowed in my teenage angst, obsessing over the skirt I had chosen to wear and hating my thighs and worrying about who didn’t like me. I was too young for bars but too old for Barbies, and I pretended to be somebody else. I wanted to be anybody else. I couldn’t think of anything but myself, like I was stuck in a selfish bath.
Until he showed up. My heart leapt. My head buzzed from the weak wine. Under one thousand stars I practiced one thousand things I wanted to say. As he came closer, his truck headlights shone over me, frozen and nervous, like a baby deer. Me-me-me-me-me-me-me. The anthem of a 14-year-old.
But the screeching wheels snapped me out of it. His rubber tires scratched the pavement like a bad DJ spinning an old record. And this was no soft tune. He was (and remains) the worst parallel parker I’d ever seen, unable to squeeze his pickup into the giant parking spot. Forward and reverse, miscalculating angles, minute after minute, his cool face morphed into a humiliated grin. Straining neck, squinting eyes, bobbling head. I don’t know who was more overwhelmed, him or me, for having to witness it.
All I know is that lastima brought me out of myself. At that moment, I didn’t care what I looked like or what others thought. What mattered was him because he was real. Today I live in Los Angeles - the land of parallel parking. I have to be very careful, dare not glance at sides of streets or look around garages or observe any valet activity whatsoever for fear that my lastima will speed up and crash me. Because whoever you are, you will look absolutely dopey trying to back into that space.
One thing has changed since that sticky junior-high night - I finally stopped drinking Boone’s.
p.s. I credit this experience for my kick ass parallel-parking skills, so thank you, old flame.