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The Cutlass That Could Sing
By Jackie Huertaz
Visalia, Tulare County, 1993
When I was ten years old my father purchased a '76 Cutlass Supreme. His used ride was not in mint-condition, nor worthy of praise or car show drool. The Cutlass was a third-generation Oldsmobile coupe that differed in style and size from the original model. My father’s new ride was spacious compared to our '89 Suzuki Swift.
The Cutlass had a dusty white exterior with deep plush suede seats. The white paint on the Cutlass was chipping from sun exposure revealing its bare metal. And when I rubbed the spots with my fingertips it felt cool and ashy like a chalkboard. Its waterfall grill had vast colonnade pillars that separated the headlights giving the vehicle a monolithic appearance. The Cutlass was wide and lengthy, and every time we turned a corner, the turn felt endless. This was the first time we had space from each other in a vehicle, where our bodies, breath, and odor weren’t touching.
We could look out the windows and actively escape into the houses, stores, and people we passed by. We had the freedom for our imaginations to roam and linger, to be curious and nosy. We didn’t get mad at each other when we drove around as a family to do errands. My sister Karisa never said when are we going home. I remember the facial expressions of the people from our neighborhood, as me, my dad, and little sister casually cruised by their houses, bumping Brenton Wood, War, and Malo.
The memories have slipped into one composite memory and I imagine it happened like this: the sun is setting on the northside of Visalia, creating a blood orange hue. It’s May and the heat mixed with the valley air feels like lukewarm water to the skin. My father is wearing black wayfarers, and in between his legs there’s a golden Corona tucked tightly in a brown paper bag. He coolly takes sips every time we turn a corner. There’s a rhythm in the way he sips and turns, sips and turns, as if he is creating his own musical beat. People from the neighborhood stop their chatter mid-sentence, they stop washing their cars, and watering their lawns, their eyes transfix on the Cutlass because of the music my dad is playing. Damn that Cutlass could sing! And for just a moment they escape too, into a time of oldies and friendship, of chisme and red lipstick, the smell of sex and Aqua Net. The moment is fleeting yet infinite as my father turns the corner and sips his Corona into the descending summer sunlight.
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