Friendies! Special treat today! We have a guest post by our friend Tim Coyne. Among other things, he’s an incredible actor, writer and podcaster here in Los Angeles. Tim is pure awesomeness. When you’re done, check out his site, The Hollywood Podcast. Enjoy!
A year ago I was a nanny.
Or a “manny” - when I was trying to impress the ladies.
Yes. For a living, I drove around a 16-year-old girl and an 18-year-old boy. So I guess I was really a driver. But there’s a cold feeling to that title, like I was just a cog in the machine, like I didn’t have a relationship with these two kids. But I did. I drove them around for 4 years. They trusted me. We talked about stuff. We still do.
So I wasn’t ashamed to have the job. I was proud of it. I taught them both how to drive. And to my surprise, the 16 year old daughter was much more interested in getting her license than the 18 year old son. She took the driving test before her brother did . . . And failed . . . Twice. She passed it on her third try.
The son was a different story. He didn’t get his learner’s permit until he was 18 and he was very hesitant to get behind the wheel. A lot more hesitant than I was when I was his age, when I had my $500 Subaru Brat. The Brat. It was a car and a truck.
Little did I know, twenty years later, I’d be driving a $400 scooter.
That’s right. Until this past year - my “comeback year” as I call it - I drove only a scooter.
“Was it a Vespa?”
No. It wasn’t a Vespa. If I told you I slept on a floor for a few years, would you say, “Oh. Was it Brazilian Cherry Hardwood?” If I could have afforded a Vespa I’d have owned a car.
But I have a car now. A 2001 Mistubishi Mirage with 140,000 miles on it. My sister-in-law gave it to me. It was her high school car. So, you can imagine how charming I must have been in that job interview?
“Honey. Did we just hire a driver who doesn’t own a car.”
So, I used the Dad’s car to drive the kids. He worked a lot so I’d go to his workplace, pick up his Audi, and then return it when I was done. It was the best part of my day. Kickng back. Drinking coffee. Cruising the streets. Cars are amazing.
So, I had been teaching the son how to drive, in preparation for his driver’s exam, and it was fun but we had only kept to the side roads until I got a call from his mother asking me to take him on the highway. He was meeting his girlfriend, his first girlfriend, at a concert in downtown Los Angeles, a sixteen-mile trip from his home in Santa Monica. The next day he was going away for a month to Jazz Camp so this was the last time he would see her before his departure.
Usually, when driving with him, the conversation would go like this.
He’d say “Can I go?”
I’d say, “I don’t know. Can you?”
“Can I go?”
And I’d say. “No. Do not go. Do not go.”
But this trip was different.
We were cruising along, trying to stay in our lane, when he started talking about stuff, about her, his first girlfriend. We had talked about her before but usually in a guy-talk sort of way. No emotion allowed. No touchy feely stuff. “Bitches.” “Yeah. Bitches.” I mean, that’s not what we would say. I never say that. But that was the tone. The tone my Dad had about my mom when I was a kid, before the divorce, “She’s busting my balls.” “She’s Monday Morning Quarterbacking me.” “She’s pulling out the dirty laundry.”
So, out of nowhere, as we drove along the 10, this eighteen year old kid took one hand off the wheel and finally started talking about her. His first girlfriend. For real.
“Adults think our relationship is all quaint and cute.” He said. “But this shit hurts. I’m nervous about leaving her when I go off to college."
College? He was entering his senior year in high school. He had an entire year before he’d go off to college. I was thinking, "Dude! Jazz Camp! You'll be lucky if you make it through fucking Jazz Camp." But I tried to stay positive.
“Love your optimism, bro,” I told him. “I hear you. That’ll be tough.”
We continued to drive into the fading light. I shared some insights about mirrors, turn signals, blind spots.
He started talking about her again.
"I think she wants me to tell her I love her.”
This was when my optimism faded, and my jaded 36-year-old heart revealed itself.
"I hear you, bro. But you know, it doesn't really matter. Fuck it. Just tell her.”
"Well,” he said, “I hold that word in very high esteem. I don't even say that shit to my parents."
I laughed, but he was serious. And I knew what he meant. I used to hold this word in high esteem. Now I just say it. You want to hear it? I'll say it. Immediately. I love you. Easy.
“Seriously?” I said, “you’ve never told your parents you love them?”
“Nope,” he said, in very much the same way I used to say it when a girl said to me, “Seriously? You don’t have a car?”
We both laughed, and with downtown LA on the horizon, we chatted about Jazz Camp, SATs, his impending senior year. Then back to his girlfriend.
"I’ve never cried," he said.
Now, I wouldn’t believe a line like this from many people - it’s like when someone tells you they don’t like to dance - c’mon - but I believed him. Love is number one on a short list of things that could make a guy cry and this was his first girlfriend.
"Dude,” I told him. “When I went off to college, I left a girl behind. Her name was Michele. Michele with one L. If you guys make it through this year, and you go off to college and leave her behind, you are going to fucking cry. You are going to cry your ass. Trust me.”
He laughed, but I was serious.
“You think I’m fucking around?” I said. "Michele with one L? She ended up cheating on me with the only Mormon in our high school while I was stuck with two guys in a college dorm room. Okay. All three of us had left girls behind and we had one phone. We had one phone and it was attached to the wall. No cell phones, no Facebook, no text messages. We wrote letters. We licked stamps. We fought over that phone on the wall. And we cried. A lot. I’m still not over it.”
"Dude,” he said with this shell shocked look on his face, “you're still not over that shit?”
"Are you kidding?” I said, “A few years ago, I was working at the Four Seasons Hotel as a pool waiter. Okay? My manager tells me I have a phone call. Let me tell you something, bro. You never forget the voice of a girl who broke your heart. It was Michele with one L. She says to me, "Tim. I’m engaged. I’m sorry. I thought you should know.”
Over ten years after leaving her behind for college, I cried. I cried at that Four Seasons pool. No, bro. I am not over it. Now change lanes! We need to get in the right lane."
“Can I go?”
“I don’t know. Can you?”
We drove in silence as I thought about “Michele with one L” and how I’ve spent my entire adult life trying to feel the way I felt during that first love. I’m not getting any closer. My most recent girlfriend broke up with me because I wasn’t “romancing her enough.” I couldn’t believe it. I was Mr. Romance with Michele.
There’s a store called “Things Remembered” where you can buy crap and engrave it. When I was a teenager I dropped so much cash there. Necklaces, bracelets, anklets, heart boxes, diaries, you name it, I slapped an engraving on it. “I love you.” “I’ll love you forever.” “Tim & Michele 4-Eva.”
“Take the next exit,” I instructed him.
As we approached the meeting spot I told him to park a little bit away so he wouldn't be embarrassed in front of his girl.
We parked. We got out. And as we were crossing in front of the car, I grabbed him by the shoulders, this kid who would soon be driving on his own, without me, this kid who was in the midst of his first love - and undoubtedly his first tears - and I looked at him.
"Dude, to this day, whenever I meet a Michelle, the very first thing I say, the very first thing I ask? “One L or two?”
“Tell her. Tell her you love her.”