Dear Deb

apologyDear Deb,

Sorry for making you take all those water-logged maxi pads and tampons off my car.

You were only ten. This was 1988. I was seventeen and a new driver. I’d bought an eight-year-old, metallic-blue Toyota Corolla from our dad’s friend Alice for a dollar. It was a junker-rusted doors, yellow foam cushions poking through ripped vinyl seats, trunk that flew open around corners sometimes-but I invested $180 in a new carburetor and it ran well enough to help me deliver Danny’s pizzas and get me to school every morning.

Of course, a teenage boy’s first car offers other advantages, too. And mine earned the mostly-joking, not-very-original nickname of “The Pussy Wagon” from two platonic girl friends, Jennifer and J.P., after I was lucky enough to have one of my first sexual experiences in the backseat. (The episode became slightly famous among my circle of friends because Matt McCabe had come knocking on the fogged-up window asking if there was a person there. “Yes!” I told him. “Go away!” He knocked again, “Dave, it’s Matt. Is there a person there?” I could have killed him. “Yes!” I shouted. “Fuck off!” He knocked again, asked again. Was he deaf? Was this a prank? Did he want me to tell him her name? I stopped what I was doing, clambered into the front seat and opened the door a crack. “What the fuck, man?!” He was standing there with his girlfriend, Mary, who I’d driven to the party we were parked outside. “Sorry, Dave,” Mary said. “But is my purse in there?” It was.)

A couple months later, on Mischief Night, the night before Halloween, Jennifer and J.P. played a good trick on me by decorating the car with fake cardboard license plates stenciled “P-WAGON” and a truly impressive number of maxi pads and tampons, which they stuck all over the exterior using the little adhesive strips on the back of the maxi pads and tape for the tampons. They were very thorough. There must have been 500 maxi pads on there. Fewer tampons, but you couldn’t see much metallic blue.

Dad found it in our driveway in the morning and enjoyed the joke. He was good about things like that. I got a ride to school with someone else and congratulated Jennifer and J.P. when I saw them. The problem started the next day, when dad asked me when I was going to remove the feminine hygiene products from the already-less-than-attractive car that was parked, for all to see, in front of his house.

Like many teenage boys, I was extremely squeamish about all things related to menstruation-a position that, thinking back on it, was largely put on. I think I just thought guys were supposed to be that way, all freaked out and uncomfortable at the first mention of a girl’s period; I associate it with Scott Valentine, who played Mallory Keaton’s boyfriend Nick on Family Ties. I think he got the heebie-jeebies about the subject one episode, and, I don’t know, I guess I thought he was cool. The way he said “Yo” all the time and stuff. (This probably goes pretty far towards explaining why I hadn’t had sex earlier than I did. It was hard growing up in the 80s.) Anyway, I adopted that stance and refused to touch the pads and tampons. I told dad I would make Jennifer and J.P. do it. He shook his head, disappointed.

Then it rained.

I had no idea how absorbent those things are! The pads ballooned to the size of bricks-like giant sodden baby diapers. The tampons were like dog bones, plumes of cotton exploding out of their thin cardboard tubes. My car looked like a quilted Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It was way more disgusting-and Dad was way more insistent about it being cleaned up. I was way less happy about the notion. And Jennifer and J.P. just laughed and laughed.

The rain stopped. Days passed. The stuff stayed inflated-like those aspirin-sized capsules that blow-up into foam dinosaurs when kids put them a bowl of water. (Magic!) This was their new shape.

Being a ten-year-old girl, you had a much more reasonable attitude towards the situation. And being my little sister, you were always looking for ways to score points with me. I think I gave you a dollar for what must have been an hour’s worth of work. When dad got home that evening, he was pleased to see it taken care of. When he heard I’d had you do it, he shook his head again.

So, really, this is as much a thank you as it is an apology. But I am sorry for being such a Scott Valentine about the whole thing.