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Cars & Girls

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("...there's more to life than cars and girls." - Prefab Sprout, "Cars & Girls".

There isn't, though; Bruce has always been right. Cars and girls and life's highway - these two lanes can take us anywhere.)

1. Waiting for the bells that ring

I never forgot the summer we became friends. We were kids, we didn't know no better.

We did things desperate lovers did. We went to the movies, we slow danced in the park, we drove fast in someone's slow, stolen Buick. We lay together in the faithless dark.

I loved him, he didn't love me.

It wasn't enough. He didn't even cry when I went away.

I wondered if things woulda been different if I'd spelled my name Terry, if we'd been boys together, if we'd learned how to walk like the heroes he'd always wanted to be. Maybe I wouldn't of felt what I felt, maybe we wouldn'ta had to lie to each other, maybe we coulda stayed forever friends.

Or maybe things woulda ended the same, hiding on them backstreets.


2. At the light as it changes to green

Nina loves the night, the bright lights, the rat traps, the feel of Tommy's hand in hers.

Then he'd let go and gear down, and she'd feel his knuckles tighten and the speed take over his body.

Fast, faster across the jammed circuits, the crusaders, the stock cars and lanes of steel and chrome, they'd put their faith in their machine, and the whole night would open up in front of them.

"You watch yourself," her momma would say. "These car jockeys, these fast boys, they're here today and gone tomorrow. Look at your cousin Wendy, she went out riding with some tramp from the Palace and then one day he just took off without her and never looked back."

Tommy never does that, though. He tells her she's prettier than the stars and it isn't just a line. He works nine to five and takes hell from his boss man because he wants to give her a better life. Nobody talks about forever in this town, but she has a feeling about him.

Together they'll run free, and watch the highway ignite.


3. To trade in these wings for some wheels

There was an angel standing in her driveway in the dusk.

She'd watched him drive up in an old Dodge the color of the evening sky. She knew who he was right away. Only an angel would've been able to get past the ghosts that had haunted the streets outside her house for more years than she could count, and not vanish the minute she got to the porch.

The angel wore faded jeans and aviators and the face of her childhood sweetheart. White feathers jutted from under his battered jacket. He leaned against the hood of the Dodge with Mike's awkward grace.

"Hey, Mary," he called out to her. "How've you been?"

She held back her instinctive retort, it was probably bad manners to swear in front of an angel. "How d'you think I've been?" she asked instead. "It's been so long, it's like the world forgot about me."

"It wasn't always that way," he said, and of course it hadn't been. She'd been young once, heaven had come easily to her every night.

She'd turned her back on Mike and his shy smile, his honest face. She'd gone dancing with football heroes and driving with homecoming kings and then she'd crossed them off and sent them away.

She'd been looking for someone to save her from her life; she'd prayed for miracles and she'd never been satisfied.

And she'd grown old, waiting.

"Thought you'd forgotten about me," she said, to the skeleton-eyed ghosts, to the angel wearing the clothes of her first love. "You gonna tell me why you're here?"

The angel shrugged. "I was waiting for you to finally be ready to leave."

She got to her feet and walked stiffly across the porch. The angel watched as she climbed down the steps and approached the car. She hesitated, her hand on the passenger door.

"I'm scared," she told him. "I'm not young any more. This town is all I know."

The angel pushed the aviators up into his hair. His eyes were as blue as she remembered.

"Can't make any promises. Except this one: tonight, you'll be free."

She felt like the night had finally broken open; as if this was her last chance at redemption after a lifetime of bad choices and loneliness - her one chance to taste something real again.

"Heaven's waiting," the angel said, and held out his hand.