Riding with Prince Charming

Photo by Terrye Turpin on the Waterlogue app

My first steady boyfriend drove a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Sport Coupe. The official name for the car’s color was Camel Brown, an unfortunate tag that suggests a lumpish, disagreeable animal. The license plate number was UAB711. I remember the license plate number because I spent most of the next summer, after we broke up, stalking him.

I met Mark through his best friend Johnny, who was dating my best friend, Ann. When he dressed up for a date Mark wore a velour pullover top, corduroy pants, and a splash of Jovan Musk. We started dating during my freshman year at Texas Woman’s University, where I found a strong fellowship of sisterhood but also a shortage of eligible young men.

Most of our dates we cruised around our home town in the Monte Carlo. Sometimes we would drive to Finch Park and make out in the parking lot in front of the Collin McKinney Cabin, a historical structure famous for hosting tours for elementary school children.

After we broke up, I still spent Saturday nights cruising the streets of McKinney, Texas, but I rode around with my best friend. Ann had a 1976 Datsun. It didn’t have a moon roof or wire spoke wheels, but it did have an eight track player, and I had a subscription to the Columbia House Tape of the Month Club.

There was an energy crisis in 1979, but that didn’t stop us from filling up the tank in the Datsun and tossing a suitcase filled with eight tracks into the back seat. On a typical Saturday night we stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream, popped some REO Speedwagon in the tape deck and drove around crying out loud to “Time for Me to Fly.” I would search the streets for Mark’s Monte Carlo. I could recognize those headlights in the dark, and I perfected the ability to look long enough to see if the plate number was his, but not so long that he could see I was looking at him.

One weekend, dizzy with unrequited love and reruns of Love Boat, I came up with an idea. “Hey”, I said to Ann, “What if we took the For Sale sign from the house next door and put it in front of a different house?” I went on to explain that this prank would be funny, easy to pull off, and most importantly, untraceable back to us, the perpetrators.

“Oh, wow! Sure! Let’s do it!” Ann was loyal and easily persuaded, which made her both the ideal best friend and perfect accomplice in petty crime.

We headed out in the Datsun, not the most inconspicuous car with its bright yellow paint job, but it had a hatch back, which made it easier to load up the signs. We circled the block, gathering up and replacing signs throughout the neighborhood. We placed the last one in front of the Collin McKinney Cabin.

The next several days I alternated between guilt and worry that our crime would be found out. I imagined a crowd of angry, bouffant haired real estate agents. But we remained undiscovered. The next weekend Ann called me. “Hey! Guess what! I talked to Johnny!” I considered this.

“Did he mention Mark?” I asked.

“Yeah, and guess what!” Ann paused to laugh into the phone. “He tried to buy the Collin McKinney Cabin! Isn’t that crazy?”

I realized that my former boyfriend would never forgive me for this practical joke, and the sign that our relationship was really over had come from Century 21.

The rest of that summer we spent as Ladies in Waiting as we leaned casually on the hoods of our cars and pretended that the heat from the car engine wasn’t searing the flesh from the back of our thighs. We drank Boones Farm Strawberry wine from plastic straws in Styrofoam cups and kept Visine and peppermint candies in the glove box. While the late summer sun set and the street lights flickered on, we kept watch from grocery store parking lots and drive in burger joints while Prince Charming rode by in pick up trucks or silver Mustangs, black Firebirds, and sometimes a Camel Brown Monte Carlo, license plate number UAB711.

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