THE 64th STREET DRIVE-IN
By Patricia Lawler Kenet / 03.01.11
If you are 13, but with a scoop neck ballerina top, green eyeliner and platforms, look 17 and you have a boyfriend who is 20 and looks it----with a caterpillar moustache, and aviator glasses---you don’t tell your mother you are going to the drive in together.
But you don’t lie to her either, not blatantly anyway, so you tell her you’re going to the movies---implying an indoor theater with no car to separate you from the people around you. And if this is your first time at a drive-in, you can pretend you’re going there to see a movie, though you don’t know what’s playing.
“Mom, I’m going to the movies with John,” you say and pray there’ll be few questions.
And when all she says is be back by 11, you say to yourself thank God and try to hurry--- a quick spritz of Charlie perfume, shimmy into a tube top, and bolt out the door.
The screen of the 64th Street Drive-in rises like a worn sail at the base of the rusty Penrose Avenue Bridge on the outskirts of Philadelphia. To its right is a massive junkyard with smashed-flat cars like steel layer cakes, next to Jerry’s Corner with merchandise so shoddy even your family doesn’t shop there.
The name itself----64th Street Drive-in --- eschews any pretense of glamour or romance---no Starlight Theater, no Galaxy Cinema---just the co-ordinates---enough to tell you where it is.
Further out, are the baseball shaped oil tanks and the oil towers with blue flickering flames—cold tongues of fire. You don’t know what you hope as you drive over the bridge and the sky opens. You could fall into the sky.
You know you don’t want to be home anymore on Friday nights with your father sipping beer from an Ortlieb’s can and your mother cutting up cold pizza with a scissor and your brother storming in and storming with muddy cleats---hardly ever saying a word to you.
The sky above the 64th Street Drive-in is brown from the refinery and there’s an intermittent subtle quake as you enter from the flights taking off less than a mile away.
John pays for the tickets, one price per car no matter how many people are inside and you wonder what’s the most number of people that were ever stuffed into a car—in the trunk. But it’s just you and him. And it’s not even dark with daylight savings so you’ll wait, set up the robot-head speakers over the cranked down window.
“Do you want a drink?” he asks, but it’s not for a soda from the concession. It’s what he’s brought with him in a goat skin flask. No you don’t want a drink.
“But it’s sweet,” he tells you, “It’s Boone’s Farm.”
And the night comes down.
The cars are lined all around you in neat little rows like they’re waiting in line, like toys between patches of weeds and pebbles. You like the order and symmetry of it.
And there’s a flicker on the screen and some scratchy noises from the speakers—dancing boxes of popcorn with slender stockinged legs, accompanied by hot dogs—and the jingle makes you feel like something fun can happen. You want to feel as happy as that box, have the happy life of that box.
And the two of you wait during the previews, and the opening credits before you start doing anything. And you don’t know what you want but it’s more than just letting John put his hands and mouth on you. And you wish that he wouldn’t say your name during what he’s doing.
And later when you look in the rear view mirror, your eyeliner and lipsticks smeared and your tops stretched out, but your shoes still look good because at least they stayed on, And he’s happy too smoking a Marlboro, because it was his turn after yours.
It’s a double feature, but you’re tired, so you say, “I want to go home.”
The sky’s gone black and you start to see stars, but you don’t know what to wish for.