The First Time

Carol Starr Schneider

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was a late bloomer. I didn't do it until senior year of college. Even though everyone else had already done it, I wasn't in any rush. I ignored the peer pressure. I figured, I'll do it when it feels right, and not a second before. 


But finally, I really couldn’t wait any longer. The big day had arrived. I couldn't live with myself anymore. I knew if I ever wanted to get anywhere in life, it was time to break down and do it, get it over with, lose my innocence. I was so tired of fighting it. It was now or never.


The nice man I’d one day marry had been so patient with me, too. He deserved a medal. He never pressured me. Not once. He understood my needs. He was willing to wait.


"When you're ready…”

“I’m not ready.”

“Okay, but when you are ready, I know a guy in Culver City.”

“A stranger?”

“Not a stranger. My dad's cousin. He'll give you a good deal." 


And so, off we went to Culver City, with my hard-earned cash, the accumulation of baby-sitting gigs, part-time stints at bookstores and stationery stores, and a brief, humiliating attempt at selling clothes. After walking to UCLA for two years, spending a year abroad, and biking everywhere till my thighs became rock-like; after bumming rides, taking the bus and borrowing my mother's tank and denting it more than once, it was time to buy my first car, forever referred to as The Tin Can.

Despite its many drawbacks, I loved it so, that tiny death trap, an adorable white Datsun that couldn't go over 50 mph without overheating. I loved it with all my heart and soul, even though it cost me a bundle to keep it running. 


You always love your first one. You forgive all the shortcomings. You forget the bad stuff. Like the terrible milage and the way the gaskets blew and the windshield clouded up when it rained, making visibility nil. 


You treasure your last time with your first one, how smoke engulfed it, entirely, as you drove it, slower than slow, down Santa Monica Blvd. to its final resting place. 

The mechanic wanted it, flaws and it. He wanted to buy it, restore and call it his own. Crazy romantic. I couldn't deny him such joy. By nature, I'm a giver. It's true. No matter how many cars you own or lease, damage or resell, you never forget your first car. 


Carol Starr Schneider is a writer living in Sherman Oaks.

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