I was not a wild child, but I had my fair share of fun. I also had my share of unfortunate circumstances that many teenage girls may find themselves facing today. When I think of my teenage years, a particular situation comes to mind, a funny and eye-opening event that has become a regular installment in my “young, dumb, and in love” oral anthology. I usually broach my oral storytelling with the same declaration:”let me tell you how when I was young, dumb, and in love, and got myself into…”—that phrase usually gets people listening; hopefully it’ll get you to keep reading.
So let me tell you how when I was young, dumb, and in love, and got myself into a car chase.
To start, I’ve been a serial-monogamous-”dater” for most of my life. It’s cool now, but I often caution against being “faithful” when I speak to youngins nowadays. I tell them to “have fun!” and “don’t be tied down to these boys (or girls)!” Looking back, my decision to stick with one guy in my adolescence was a terrible mistake. To be loyal to a teenager with raging hormones is absolutely idiotic. I dated the same boy (I’m going to name him Chance) from the 7th grade until he reached his final form (after I finished my undergraduate degree). I’m not saying I didn’t experience other relationships on our “breaks”, but to Chance, I was committed. Stupidly committed.
I used to spend the summers, and every day after school, at my grandmother’s house. It was where I grew up, where I lived until my mother finally married my stepfather (the best man I know by the way). But my life was at my grandmother’s house—all of my friends lived near, my old crushes inhabited the neighborhood, and I had freedom there.
On a typical St. Louis spring day, I sat bored in my grandmother’s kitchen. Most of my friends were still at school (I’d graduated early and was taking classes at the local HBCU). But I knew Chance was home because he’d recently changed his schedule to half days. Partially listening to the television and partially listening to my grandmother yell for my uncle to come help her with something, I decided to call my boyfriend. I picked up my grandmother’s kitchen phone. It was one of those phones that hung on the wall, yellow, with a long cord. I picked up the receiver and dialed his number, twirling the cord around my fingers as I waited.
“Hey, baby what’s up?” I said ever so sweetly.
“Hey what’s up?” he said back.
But he didn’t return the usual enthusiasm. I hesitated a bit, sensing that something was amiss. Then I heard his cousin in the background rambling on, and I immediately became annoyed. His cousin was problematic. Always around. Always talking shit. Always boasting. Always trying to get Chance to talk to this girl or that girl. He was cute and he knew it. He was deemed a hot commodity because of his fair skin, attractive gold grill, and long curly hair. I breathed heavily into the phone to let Chance know that I was irritated. But he already knew I was.
“Justin said what’s up,” he told me trying to soothe my agitation.
I ignored his attempt, and I could picture his smooth mocha skin and soft pink lips twisting in slight nervousness. Chance knew I didn’t like his cousin, and he wanted to make sure things remained cool between the two people with which he spent most of his time.
“Anyway, what you doing?” I asked.
“Chilin’, playing the game.”
“I’m about to come over. I’m bored.”
He paused for what seemed like forever but was probably just five seconds. But it was five seconds too long.
“Oh, we about to leave.”
Bullshit. I remained quiet; he kept going.
“Um, we gotta go pick up my lil’ cousin from school and take him home,” he told me.
“Umm,” is all I managed to get out before I was met with a dial tone.
I took the receiver off of my ear and stared at it. “What the hell?” I mumbled low enough so my grandma couldn’t hear me.
She heard me.
“What did you just say Kourtney?” my grandmother, sitting in her wheelchair, asked as she rolled into the kitchen.
Her eyesight was fading, but her hearing remained exceptional.
“Nothing grandma, sorry grandma,” I timidly replied.
I dialed Chance’s number again. He had his own phone in his room which was the shit to me. To have your own line? The. Shit. Plus, I could call him as many times as I wanted to, without his mother tripping about the phone ringing. So I called his number probably 10 more times. After about the third time, his cousin answered and said that Chance was in the bathroom “doing the number two”. And after that, neither one of them answered.
Of course, I knew some bullshit was going on—that Chance was intentionally bullshitting me. And I was pissed. I continued to twist the yellow phone cord around my finger, cutting off my circulation and thought for a moment. At this point, I had been in a relationship with the boy for about five years. I knew when he was lying, and that it was second nature to him. But I also had something else gnawing at me: during the call I made to Chance’s phone when Justin answered and shot off some nonsense about Chance’s bowel movements, I could’ve sworn I heard the faint sounds of a girl’s laughter as Justin was hanging up. Her light nasally laughter was haunting me because I couldn’t tell if I was really hearing it, or if my mind was indeed playing tricks on me.
So being my young, inspector gadget, I-got-all-the-time-today-because-I’m-bored self, I hopped in my car and headed his way.
He didn’t live far from my grandmother’s house, about 10 minutes away, and my 1985 gold Ford Tempo ( aptly named Goldie) was gonna make it to him in seven. I zoomed down Ashland Avenue. Swerved onto a pedestrian-filled Vanderventer Ave. Dodged potholes when I could. Tapped the brake momentarily, just enough to keep the city cops at bay. Teeth clenched. Palms sweaty. I made a left onto Martin Luther King Boulevard. Seeing red. My mind raced with what I was going to say to Chance once I caught him doing whatever it was he was doing. I’d be through with him finally. He could no longer play with my young emotions. All of these thoughts clouded my brain, and then, well then, I was seeing red literally—in the form of his red sports car.
There he was. His 1990 cherry red Chevrolet Camaro was fast approaching. At first, I felt relieved. I thought to myself, “okay, so he wasn’t lying; he really did have to pick up his cousin from school.” I assumed that the feminine voice that floated its way through my phone receiver was something my paranoia concocted. My anger began to subside as our cars began inching closer and closer to each other. I was expecting a smile. For him to tell me to bust a U-Turn and follow him, or at least pull over for a quick kiss or hug. But that’s not what I got at all.
When our cars were parallel to each other, it took three seconds for Chance to greet me with his beautiful smile and then throw me the deuces. It’s a horrible feeling to be disrespected at the speed of 35 miles per hour. The deuces? That wasn’t even the worst part because when he flashed his perfect teeth, I couldn’t help but notice that his cousin Justin sat in the back seat of his coupe, and some unidentified girl with a stiff weave ponytail sat in the passenger seat.
The faint nasally laughter had not been a figment of my imagination.
I didn’t have time to think. My body temperature rose immediately. My palms became even more sweaty. My underarms were instantly drenched with sweat. I checked my rearview mirror and saw that no cars were coming. I busted a “U” and followed after him.
I don’t know how fast I was going. I didn’t look out for police. My Ford Tempo was no longer a four door compact car, but a spaceship flying through the galaxy of North St. Louis.
He turned right; I turned right. He sped up; I sped up. Every little side street in that part of town, we sped down. I was intoxicated with anger and nothing could ameliorate my feelings except a punch in the face to him and being able to drag passenger-seat-side-chick out of the car.
He turned left; I turned left. And when I turned left the final time, my mind went blank. Everything was blurred as I lost control of my spaceship and went flying into an empty city park, stopping right before hitting a small swing set. When I came back to my senses an instant later, I realized I was screaming, “Stop! Stop! Stop!” at his car as I reversed out of the park. I could see his backseat-riding-cousin turned around staring out of the back car window in shock. And him. Chance’s almond shaped eyes gazing at me through his rearview mirror as he lifted his hands high to surrender to me. He pulled over his car and mouthed, “okay, okay”. I put Goldie in park and proceeded to exit the vehicle. This was my opportunity. I would finally be rid of him and had hardcore proof to backup my departure.
I opened my car door as hot tears streamed down my face. My legs were no longer mine; they were animate objects that were extensions of my body, but I could not control them. I nearly stumbled as my left foot hit the concrete, and the heavy car door pushed me back down in my seat. I gathered myself. Left foot met pavement. Right foot met pavement. My back was erect, and I stared holes into the back of all three of their heads as they sat in Chance’s car waiting for me.
I was ready. This was it.
He opened his car door to step out as I came closer and closer to ending a relationship that had gone on too long. To which I had been too loyal and faithful. But the chance did not come—at least not that day.
As I reached the tail end of Chance’s car, he quickly closed his driver side door, put his car in drive, and pulled off—leaving me standing in the middle of the street.
Me. My gold Ford Tempo. A City Park. And a trail of smoke left by his Camaro.
It did not end there. The relationship that is. I accepted my boyfriend’s explanation that the girl in the car was his cousin Justin’s girlfriend.
And when I asked, “well, why was she sitting in the front seat?” he responded by saying, “it’s rude to have a girl sit in the back.”
And when I asked, “well why did you throw me the deuces, make me chase you, and pull off when I approached?” he responded by saying he knew I was about to act all crazy for no reason so he wanted to avoid the situation.
How could my 18-year-old mind argue differently?
So I stayed. For years. The truth of the matter is, I knew when it was time to go, but I was too afraid to leave. At 18, I was deeply in love and thought my devotion would yield the results I wanted: complete faithfulness, honesty, and unconditional love. Or something like that. What I got was lies, empty promises, and a few good memories. I didn’t understand that Chance’s willingness to have me race his Camaro with my Tempo was a sign that he didn’t care about my well being. Or better yet, I didn’t understand how my stupid decision to literally chase after someone who’d just chucked the deuces at me was unhealthy and a sign of low self-esteem. Nevertheless, through remaining with him, I learned some lessons, and I’ve got some stories.
Maybe I’ll share a few more. Trust me, I got even more ridiculous before I wised up.