I grip the wheel at ten and two just like my father told me to do. It feels good to behindthe wheel of the Optima, to be in control of such heavy beauty.
My dad was right – there’s no one parked on the roof of the mall parking lot. It’s too hot up here, too much sun. I try not to think about the heat too much, but it’s hard when I can’t do anything about it. The air conditioner stopped working a few days ago and my dad hasn’t gone to get it repaired yet. Rolling down the windows doesn’t do much justice because I’m not going to be driving very fast. My dad told me to take it easy and just breathe.
I press down on the gas pedal and the car lurches. My dad looks at me and I give him a nervous laugh. “Try again,” he says. “It’s okay.”
I press on it lightly and the car starts to move at a steady pace, and I get so excited that I almost press down too hard on the gas pedal. I think I have the hang of this, though. I can make the turn when my dad instructs me to do so and park in some of the spots. My dad allows me to drive a little faster, and I feel the window blowing on my face. My dad just kind of laughs in disbelief.
“Wow,” he says. “It took me longer to learn how to drive. It only took you three hours.”
I lower my foot onto the brake, coming at a complete stop at the ramp that leads down to the lower levels of the parking lot. “Thanks. I feel like I should practice more, though.”
“Want to drive home?” he asks me. He seems a bit hesitant about asking, but he’s taking a risk.
“Sure!” I put the car in drive and swerve down through the parking lot. My dad looks nervous, but I feel free.
♕ ♕ ♕
My mom seems uneasy that I drove home without a permit or a license, but my dad consoles her and tells her how great I did. It feels weird, this newfound freedom I’ve received. I feel invincible, and my mom eventually seems happy. She lets my dad and I get away with pretty much anything.
I remember that Christian gets out of jail tomorrow. I feel like I should be there to see him, to take him somewhere or see him off when he goes away with his friends. I wonder how long he’ll be gone.
Now that I can drive, according to my dad, I feel like I should be off on the road all the time. I know I don’t have a license, but the cops never come around unless they’re summoned. Maybe I should go see Christian tomorrow, but I’m not sure if he wants to see me. Should I risk it?
“Hey dad,” I ask, approaching him at the counter. “Do you think that maybe I can take the car out tomorrow morning? I want to go into town to go see something.”
“Sure,” he says. He doesn’t ask what it is exactly I want to see and that makes me feel calmer. This nervousness spread through my veins like a vibration, a great disturbance that makes me feel off balance. My knees were shaking, but not as much now that’s he’s said yes on a whim. That’s what’s great about my parents: they let me do just about whatever I want.
My mother gives him a look, one that says license first! But it’s not like I can go and take it right now. It’s guaranteed that I’ll pass on my first try after one lesson. My dad said earlier I could go and take my test within the next month, maybe less, depending on how much we go out to practice and how much I improve each time.
“Thanks dad.” I go up to my room and lay down. It’s barely eleven a.m.; I’ve only been awake for four or five hours, but something on my mind makes me feel so drained. I want to sleep for the rest of the day. My mind drifts easily, like it’s been removed from my skull and placed on a cloud, and within a half hour I’m back asleep.
I wake up when the sun starts to set. I feel groggy and sweaty and sore. The clock on the bedside table reads 5:09 p.m. in red, as if it’s wrong to have slept so long. I want to get up, but what’s the point of doing anything if there’s only a few hours left in the day? I’ve wasted it, sleeping it away until it becomes tomorrow.
I end up lying there for hours, unable to go back to sleep. My eyes are closed, my body utterly calm, but my mind is racing with a million thoughts a second. I worry mostly about Christian, if he hates me or is just naturally ignorant of others. What if they let him out earlier than I thought? What if he’s getting out tonight instead of tomorrow morning? What if he leaves a few minutes before I get there in the morning? When is he leaving for this trip of his with his friends? Will he come back?
All these questions make my head hurt – I’m not able to answer any of them, and I know that Christian won’t if I ever asked. I tried asking about where he’s going the other day, but something I said got him all worked up and he shut me out like he always does.
I wonder if he’s upset with me because I haven’t gone to see him.
Will he be happy when I show up tomorrow? If I show up? I’m still not sure if I should, but I’m worried that if he does indeed decide to not come back from his trip, that I won’t ever see him again. I question myself all the time why I worry so much. I really shouldn’t. I told myself I wouldn’t. So why do I still care? What has me so attached? I tried lying to myself before that it’s in my nature just like it is in my mother’s but that doesn’t seem to work very well. So then what is it?
At 7:30 my mom comes in, sits on the edge of my bed, and places a hand softly on my shoulder. I keep my face buried in the pillow, unmoving, hoping that she’ll just go away. I don’t feel like talking to anyone right now; I’m way too tired.
She seems to know that I’m awake though and starts talking.
“I hope you’re feeling okay. You haven’t come down at all. You missed lunch. I just made dinner if you want to come down.”
I don’t say anything.
“Are you okay? Is something the matter?” Concern oozes from her nasal-y voice. It’s an odd combination of sounds.
“No,” I mumble into the pillow.
“Okay,” she says with a sigh. “I made chicken breast and those thick pasta noodles with the white sauce you like. Are you going to come down and eat with us?”
“I’ll leave a plate for you if you do get hungry.”
In the absence of her, the bed feels light. The door clicks shut behind her, and I lie here, clearing my mind and falling asleep. It’s not until three in the morning that I get up to heat up the leftovers mom promised.