When I was a kid, Saturday night was drive-in night. Because they charged by the person, we’d arrive at the drive-in packed into the trunk of my best friend Lynn’s mom’s car. It was a big old boat of a car, and we could fit four kids in that trunk. Sometimes, she’d let us ride back there the whole way from her house. We had a flashlight and told each other gross, horrible stories. Dirty jokes. Who we had secret crushes on. Who we wanted to be when we grew up. I told Lynn I was in love with her cousin Russel who owned a silver Zippo lighter. I didn’t really love Russel, but I loved the idea of being in love. I loved making confessions in the dark trunk, zooming along back roads, knowing we could be rear-ended and the cops would never think to look for passengers in the back to rescue.
Once we got through the gates, Lynn’s mother would pull to the last row in the back where the high school kids parked with coolers of beer, smoking pot on the hoods of cars. Then out we’d tumble, like clowns at a circus. The stoned teenagers would point and laugh, but no one turned us in.
I loved the Plainville Drive-In. I loved the little tinny-sounding speaker that hooked on the window and the little film they showed before the movie started with dancing hotdogs and bubbling soda cups doing the cha-cha.
What I remember most are the Clint Eastwood movies: Dirty Harry showing the bad guys no mercy, Clint and the orangutan getting wacky in Every Which Way but Loose.
But it wasn’t about the movies. It was about sharing popcorn and Junior Mints with Lynn in the backseat and whispering back and forth, comparing notes on gunfights and virginity and which was a better candy: Charleston Chews or Milk Duds. It was about roaming through the rows of parked cars, seeing who was making out and who wasn’t. Trying to get buzzed from second hand pot smoke. Stealing a beer from a cooler without being caught. During intermission, we made our way to the playground where they had one of those spinning merry-go-round things that seem to be outlawed these days. We’d get on and push each other around and around, then stagger off drunkenly, falling down. We’d pick fights with other kids there. Act Dirty Harry tough while we spat Jujubes and turned up the collars of our jeans jackets and practiced whispering, “Go ahead, make my day…”
By the end of the second movie (it was always a double feature) we’d be struggling to keep our eyes open. On the way home, I’d somehow manage to outlast the others. Lynn and her brothers and cousins, and my own younger brother, would be sleeping all around me there in the warm cocoon of the car. I’d stay awake watching the headlights play across their faces, listening to the tires on the road and the quiet country music Lynn’s mother played. I’d try to stay awake the whole way home, but always, I drifted.