I wanted your first time to be special, so I drove us to Volvo Island. Ottawa was only ten minutes away by car. I took Illinois Highway 71 south, turned left onto U.S. Route 6, then pulled onto the side of the road. Route 6 could take us all the way to California. I had never left the state. Neither had you. I only had a learner’s permit. I shouldn’t have even been driving without my dad or one of my older brothers. California would be impossible for now. Dad always said this state was going be like California in ten years anyway, then he’d mumble about taxes, retiring to Florida after his kids moved out—really, when I moved out, his little girl. I’m ten years younger than my brothers, all five. An accident. I pointed to the tiny island, barely big enough to fit the Volvo, a silver 2001 S80, manufactured before either of us had been born. The car I drove—which had previously belonged to my older brother, and my other older brother, and before that, our uncle—was even older than the Volvo, one long road trip away from the junkyard, so this would be an upgrade.
“Have you ever done it in a car before?” you asked.
“I haven’t done it in that car,” I said, pointing to the Volvo. I asked if you knew how the car got there.
“I don’t have a clue,” you said.
I told you to guess. “Do you know Latin?” I asked, and you said, “I don’t.” I gave you a clue, said, “Si quæris peninsulam amœnam, circumspice,” and you said, “I don’t know Latin. How do you?”
“Catholic elementary school,” I lied. I just knew all the state mottos.
I whispered into your ear what I would do to you if you solved the riddle. Then you fixed the same expression on your face as when our math teacher asked you to help me with our long division homework after I failed another test—worried yet determined.
“It must have been airlifted onto the island with a helicopter,” you said. The confidence in your answer made me smile, but I hid it from you. I nodded, opened the door, and exited the vehicle, then you did the same.
“Open the trunk,” I said. “There’s a box in there.” I read that the water surrounding the island was forty feet deep, so I bought a cheap two-person inflatable tube from Walmart, perfect for lazy rivers. I asked you to inflate the tube. I figured you would be able to blow up the floatation device in a few minutes thanks to your increased lung strength from running cross country. The forecast had projected only a ten percent chance of rain, but I felt a raindrop. The rain fell harder, and I asked you to inflate the tube faster. I held an umbrella over you as you huffed and puffed until it was inflated satisfactorily.
“Is it safe?” you asked, out of breath, pointing to the island. I said my older brother and his friends had dared each other to swim to the island and touch the car, and most of them returned alive.
The trip itself from the shore to Volvo Island was easier than expected, completed in minutes. Child’s play, even. I credited your tip-top navigation, called you “Captain,” flourished with a fancy salute, which made you blush.
Later, cuddled in the front seats of the Volvo, I explained that the island had first been a peninsula, and the car had been towed to the end of it before the land was excavated and flooded with water. The owner of a nearby car repair shop had done this to drum up publicity for his business, planned to hold a contest for people to guess how the car got there, but he didn’t want people to do what we just did, so the car was left on the island without fanfare.
“I was wrong,” you said.
“I gave you some points for trying,” I said. I asked if you wanted to take off your shirt, and you nodded, then I said you could help me take off mine. If you wanted to. Another nod. I climbed on top of you.
“I forgot the condoms in the car,” you said, then you added, “The other car.”
I said it would be funny if we opened the Volvo’s glovebox and found a box of condoms older than us, pre-9/11 condoms, the real prize for making it to the vehicle.
I asked if you wanted to do hand stuff.
You asked if we could stay like this.
I rested my head on your chest. I listened to your heartbeat, the rain on the roof of the car. The rain, harder now. Yet delicate. I felt you move beneath me. I felt the car move beneath us both. A rush of water, the lurch of metal. Then we floated, together.