staying cool below the mason-dixon line.

A memory flashed into my head this morning as I grabbed a bottle of seltzer for the road.

[We now have bottles of seltzer in our refrigerator because stee went through a non-alcoholic phase a couple of months ago, and what has lingered is his love for bizarre bottles of juices and flavored waters. Consequently, I drove to the train station with a bottle of lime seltzer. Like I live in the past.]

Anyway, as I grabbed the bottle opener to pop the top, a memory flooded back. I was living in Jackson, and had spent the night at a friend’s house. I was probably in the sixth grade. When my friend’s older sister found out she had to drive me home on a Saturday morning, she got pissed in a way only sixteen-year-olds can be. She told me to get my shit and get in the car.

This is what I remember. I was in the passenger seat. She had the sun roof down. The car was a stick shift, and I’d never seen a girl drive one. She was wearing little denim shorts, the frayed edges zig-zagging across her tanned thighs. And between her legs was a mason jar filled with ice water. She kept sipping from the jar and then jamming it back between her legs.

And in that moment, I was completely in awe of this girl. She’d jerk the stickshift around like it had personally insulted her. At red lights, she’d tumble her spiral-permed chestnut hair out of her banana clip and then re-pile it on top of her head. She was sweating, and I could see the sunlight reflect off of her wrist as she moved her hand back from the stickshift to the jelly jar. It was beyond sexy. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen a girl do.

When I got home, I wanted to do something to myself to make me more like her. It wasn’t the sunglasses I wanted. It wasn’t even the Daisy Dukes.

I wanted a mason jar filled with ice water, and I wanted to rest it between my legs like I had better god damn things to do with my time.

My house didn’t have any empty Mason jars. I searched the kitchen and pantry until I discovered the closest thing: a jar of bleu cheese dressing, mostly full, on the refrigerator door.

I had two choices: steal the jar, empty it out and start using it immediately, or wait the three years it would probably take for my family to go through all of that bleu cheese.

I remember being terrified my mother was going to figure out I had swiped the jar. I ripped off the label and filled the jar with hot water. I washed it over and over, but I couldn’t get the cheese smell out. And then I noticed the jar wasn’t smooth; the edges were raised in the salad dressing’s logo.

I didn’t care. I looked for moon-shaped ice cubes like my girl crush had. I smashed the rectangle ones we had in half, hoping it was close enough. I filled my Mason jar with ice and water and tried sitting in front of the television with the coolest apathy I could muster.

My mother walked into the living room and stopped immediately. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Nothing.” But my knees started trembling. She was going to know I had ruined her chances of making salad tonight.

“What are you drinking out of? Is that a jar?”

Remember to be cool. “I guess.”

“Throw that away. We don’t drink out of jars. We are not white trash.”

If only I could whisper to that young girl right now, “Ask her about the dried flowers in a wicker basket sitting right next to you and then tell her to say that again.”

Instead I had to take my beloved Mason jar — my only link to cool living — to the sink and dump the water.

“You can use it to keep pennies in,” Mom said. “But that’s it. Otherwise get rid of that. Besides, I use those jars for storing grease.”

Again, if only little Me had the sass of big Me. Actually, if she did, she would have been subjected to so many more beatings.

But this morning, after I popped the top off my glass bottle of seltzer, I got into my car, started the engine, and blasted the radio.


I jammed the bottle between my legs.

Hell, yeah.

But then I remembered my sunglasses were too scratched to wear and my car’s an automatic and it was pretty smoggy out… but I still thought of that badass chick who drove me home one Saturday morning in a way that I try to feel every time I get behind the wheel. She has no idea she inspired a girl to want to be a woman — by not only making her car an extension of her attitude, but to encapsulate sexuality in something as simple as a wet, cool Mason jar.

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