I went on a first date to a pizza parlor. He drove us, newly licensed, in his Toyota Tacoma. I was 16, he was 17 on a chilly New Jersey night.
Being in an automobile without an adult was a new world for me. I was still on a learner’s permit. He was older for our grade — we were both juniors in high school — so he was one of the first to start driving to school solo.
It was just the two of us in the cab of his truck, meaning we had full reign of the turns we took, the stops we made, the station we listened to and the conversations we had.
We decided to take a right onto Route 70 and stop for pizza, mozzarella sticks and two sodas.
We talked over the hustle and bustle of the pizzeria, wolfing down our plain slices and skipping dessert. The meal was quick, but by the time we made our way back to his truck, snow covered the ground.
I went into a panic, wondering if it would be safe for us to drive home — there was at least an eighth of an inch of snow on the ground for goodness sake!
He wasn’t fazed. Instead, he asked, “Wanna go do doughnuts in the high school parking lot?”
And so we did, speeding up and turning hard, hoping for that rebellious, uncontrollable feeling. As the truck bed fishtailed, we felt weightless and free. I spent the whole night smiling, even long after he kissed me good night and drove off.
It was the first of nearly six years of dates, a relationship marked by adolescent fervor. We spent all of our money and traveled across the world. We stayed up late and slept in until the afternoon, spending entire weekends on the couch. We got into fights and made up, until we didn’t. Then, we grew up and apart.
Over a decade later, I often daydream about that reckless night spent speedfully spiraling in the parking lot. When the snow dumps along the Seward Highway, I can’t help but marvel at how closely we danced with fear, how zealously we clung to first love.
Now, I start up my own pickup truck, defrost the windshield and hope that I do not fishtail out of the driveway or lose control anywhere along the way. I cancel road trips if the weather is bad and I drive so very slowly in parking lots. I’m in bed reading at 10 p.m. and finding myself growing and changing in new ways every day.
But some nights, I’ll hear the revving of engines and peek out my front window to see someone barreling around a corner, exploring the freedom of an icy road, and I remember the weightlessness of a first love.
By KAT SORENSEN
For the Clarion