Leah Rogin-Roper (WOrds)
Natalia Aramovich (Illustration)
Little Red Corvette
Mom always loved Prince and so many Sunday mornings started with “Little Red Corvette” that I knew all the words. When she slid the cassette into the player in the car and asked me if I knew what metaphors were, I shrugged, recited some meaningless definition I remembered from my 7th grade classroom and went back to singing “Little Red Corvette.”
“Do you know what this song is really about?” she asked.
“What do you mean? It’s about a car,” I replied.
“Listen to it again and think about what else he could be talking about,” she said, rewinding the tape like you had to do back then.
“Just sounds like he’s talking about a car to me.”
“Why do you think he says she’s much too fast?”
“Cuz it’s a sports car?” I said. I had asked my dad what a Corvette was and he had pointed one out to me when we were in the city.
“What about the line where he says ‘I felt a little ill when I saw all the pictures of the jockeys that were there before me’ what do you think that means?”
“I guess that’s about the other short men who have ridden a horse?” My mom snorted.
“Well, what about the line, ‘you had a pocket full of horses, Trojans, some of them used?”
“The Trojan Horse is what they used to smuggle Greek soldiers inside the city of Troy,” I said, a little proud of my mythological knowledge.
“Trojans are also a brand of condom, do you know what those are?” I tried to reconcile my favorite Prince song with the condoms from sex education, the way the teacher had red-faced rolled one onto a banana while yelling at anyone who dared to giggle.
“The whole song’s really a metaphor for sex,” my mom said, watching my face. “Listen to it again.” On the next listen, I blushed as I thought more about what a little red Corvette could be a metaphor for. It had never occurred to me that there could be a code built into language, that someone could be singing about a car, but really be singing about doing it.
“Don’t tell your brother,” my mom said, as we neared the driveway. I didn’t ask why, but a few days later when we had latchkeyed our way home, I put on “Little Red Corvette” and got out the liner notes, following along with the lyrics.
“Do you know what this song is really about?” I asked my brother.
“Yeah, a sports car,” he said. I left it at that.
I learned to masturbate a year later when I found my mom’s Playgirl with a Prince impersonator sprawled out across page after page.