The 1969 red Ford Fairlane with the rusted out floorboard was waiting outside the apartment. The boy and the girl were inside, finding some new way to abuse each other without words. Snarls had become fashionable, as had the hand flip.

It's hard to see inside the human heart, and that's why there really is no story to tell about how love turns to disinterest, and how the needy humans then turn it into something much, much worse. Just walking away would be the sensible thing to do. Anyone looking in from the outside could tell them that. Several caring folks will probably stand up to do just that. "Why don't you just get away from her?" the boy's friends who really care might say to him. The girl's friends might be saying the same to her. It's more than probable that they would try to end the thing themselves. Probably more than once. But there is a chemistry stronger than the mind and heart of man. I think they are called pheromones. I think it is a smell that hangs in the air and can travel up to five hundred miles if the wind is correct.

Once we rode together in a metal firecracker.
You told me I was your queen, you told me I was your biker.
You told me I was everything.

This spring afternoon was in its decline and the boy and girl had not said one word to each other since getting out of bed that morning. There had been no more than four direct eye contacts and approximately a dozen sideways glances. Things were as bad as they could get before the shouting would start. How bad it would get after that was unknown, but the boundaries were getting tested every day. There was going to come a day where someone got hurt very, very badly. And not in a teen angst way. Suddenly, out of the cold stone blue she said, "I want to go to New Orleans."

"What for?" he said, knowing full well that they would be in that red Ford Fairlane within an hour, on their way to New Orleans.

"I've never been and I want to go." She was not cheered but neither was she giving off the tension waves any longer. "It'd be fun."

Well, he thought to himself, maybe this will help. He knew nothing was going to help, but he hadn't quit trying to find a way to avoid the loss of this precious thing they once owned together. Ever since that first time, that afternoon when she came over to his place and he looked her right in the most beautiful eyes he'd ever seen and said, before they'd ever as much as held hands, "I'd be a liar if I said I didn't want to lay down with you. Right now."

He slept on a mattress on the bedroom floor and they floated from the couch to that mattress and their clothes disappeared without effort and she looked up at him and said, in the sweetest eighteen year old voice on earth, "Do you need me to help?" He wanted to cry.

Once I was in your blood, and you were obsessed with me.
You wanted to paint my picture, you wanted to undress me.
You wanted to see me in your future.

But that was a long, long time ago, and both had been in a struggle to retrieve that perfect moment since. They had come close at times. And it was those times that made the obviously pointless endurance race seem as it was worth running, even though it was as clear as hate that the finish line was drawn in blood.

"OK. I know a girl down there we can stay with. Get your stuff together." He had been to Nawlins a few times in his life, and had no real desire to go back. But the memory of what had been and what might be again had his brain in a fever. Maybe this trip would help.

"Let's ask Mike if he wants to go. He's got some good hash," she said. Mike was a mutual friend who was dating her best friend.

All I ask: Don't tell anybody the secrets,
Don't tell anybody the secrets I told you.
All I ask: Don't tell anybody the secrets,
Don't tell anybody the secrets I told you.

Within the prescribed hour, the three of them were in the red Ford Fairlane with the floorboard which was rusted out on the passenger side. You could drop a small child on the floorboard and watch as he or she disappeared underneath the car on the receding asphalt. It was around a 400 mile trip, and somewhere outside of Tupelo he looked back to see Mike asleep in the back seat. He reached over and took her hand. It was forgiving and did not reel. He pulled her close to him on the bench seat. She scooted over and kissed him on the cheek. He wanted to get so close to her so maddeningly badly right then that he would have gladly sold his soul to the Devil (who was no doubt causing all these problems between them) just to make Mike disappear for an hour.

Once you held me so tight, I thought I'd lose my mind.
You said I rocked your world, you said it was for all time.
You said that I would always be your girl.

They got into New Orleans around midnight, and the phone call to the girl he knew woke her up. After a sleepy and less than receptive dialogue, it was understood that he and Mike and the girl were welcome to sleep in the back yard, but that the house was full. They drank cheap bourbon and smoked hashish and slept on a blanket in the yard. The next day they showed the girl the French Quarter and decided to drive to Panama City.

Is the weather a portent or does the change in the climate cause folks to act differently? A strong breeze blew in from the Northeast; exactly the wrong way the air currents usually run in that area of the country. It got cold and dark in the middle of the day. They got to the beach in the Florida panhandle and she wanted to see the Gulf, regardless of the weather. The three of them walked down to the scrub brush and tried to light a bowl of hash. It was too windy. The sand was blowing in their faces and it stung like tiny insects. She walked out to the water and put her foot in. She walked back to him and said, "I want to go home."

We'd put on ZZ Top and turn 'em up real loud.
I used to think you were strong, I used to think you were proud.
I used to think nothing could go wrong.

The cold air rushing up from the rusted out floorboard could not be overcome with the heater. She huddled against the passenger side door as if she would throw herself out of the car at any minute.

All he could think of the whole way home was that if Mike hadn't come, that one perfect moment on the way down to the Big Easy, just outside of Tupelo, could have changed everything. If only they'd been alone.

All I ask: Don't tell anybody the secrets,
Don't tell anybody the secrets I told you.
All I ask: Don't tell anybody the secrets,
Don't tell anybody the secrets I told you.

--Lyrics by Lucinda Williams
The best song she'll ever write

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for the good Dr. Doyle

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