Friday, February 01, 2008
I was dressed like a trucker or a farmer, or maybe a lumberjack, but not a lady. In fact my coat came from the men’s department at Mark’s Work Wearhouse. It’s the smallest size on the rack and I still drown in it. I like to be warm, and it was cold that night. I had on my skinny jeans and my big thick winter boots, my woolly earflaps hat and my riding gloves.
I felt beautiful.
When I turned into the lot of the coffee shop I had one of those quick jabs of identity crisis that I get way too often for a woman my age. Coffee shop. I don’t drink coffee. I wouldn’t normally go to a place like that, but I was meeting up with my fellow writers. We talk about writing and reading, we read stuff we wrote, we go off topic. Without my writer’s group, I wouldn’t ever set foot in a place full of strangely named hot caffeinated drinks.
I waited for three young guys to stroll across the lane from the shop to the parking lot. They didn’t look like they belonged here either. Plaid shirt wearing, workboot footed, baseball capped guys don’t make swanky places like this their regular hang.
I always have to look carefully for a spot to park my truck. It’s big. If I can’t find a drive through spot, or three spots in a row to sprawl in, I back it in. It won’t fit if I drive it in. But it was 7:30 on a January night, and I had a wide open parking lot. Three small cars, a minivan, and another Chevy pickup truck were the only vehicles parked there.
I steered over beside the Chevy pickup. I do that. I like to think that trucks attract each other.
I parked it nose to tail. I have developed a habit of parking beside another truck and then sizing it up. Mine is often the longest and hangs past the truck beside it by a bumper and a bit more. This one was an extended cab like mine, but only a short box. Mine’s a long box. Mine’s bigger. But that one’s a 4x4, so it’s got one up on mine. It’s burgundy; mine’s two tone silver and red.
The three young guys cruised over to the other truck just as I shut mine off. I looked over my shoulder, through the tinted quarter window. I flicked off the headlight switch and reached for the door handle, grabbing my keys and the strap of my book bag. I slid down out of the truck and realized once my feet hit the pavement that I should have locked the passenger door too. My husband’s toolbox was on the floor.
I hit the lock button and slammed shut the big slab of General Motors steel. The guys ambled over, talking in their guy voices, laughing like guys. I walked around the front of my truck. They didn’t belong here with the minivans and hatchbacks. They looked like farmers and mechanics. I know this. I grew up surrounded by farmers and mechanics.
I cruised along the side of my truck and opened the passenger door so I could lock it. One guy looked up. He smiled. I smiled back. I shut the locked door and waited a split second, and then, “Nice truck.” I nodded my chin at the burgundy 4x4. That’s what you do when casually complimenting another guy’s pickup; you give a little jerk of a nod in that direction. I grew up knowing that too.
The dark haired guy raised his eyebrows, then grinned. He had his keys in his hands. “Thanks!” he chuckled. The smile stayed on his lips.
I strolled around the tailgate, checked to see if it had farm plates, which it didn’t, and looked over the welded cargo grate covering the box. In a flash I remembered my Dad apologizing for the blemish on the tailgate when he was done the paint job. “The tailgate gets wrecked before the rest of the truck. You’ll paint the tailgate three times for every body job you do on the rest of it.” I wondered if those three guys were checking out that tailgate and every little scratch from all the times I squeezed into car-sized parking spots with bushes planted behind. I pictured them looking at the three stickers: Ontario Equestrian Federation. Homestead Rodeo. John Deere. What can you tell about a girl by the stickers on her truck? Did they wonder if it was mine, or my dad’s, or my husband’s? Do other women drive pickups in this town? Do they have any idea that I could be as much as fifteen years older than them?
I looked over my shoulder when I was past. They all lingered between the two trucks, watching me cross the lane into the shop. Under the lamp overhead, I could see that the young man with the keys still had that smile on his face.