The day was crisp and clear. Sharp, but not painful. Like an old knife that still cuts. I felt the sun shine down on my unprotected arms, heating them with its warm smile. I stared into my dog’s solemn eyes that could reach depths no human could ever reach. Today was not a happy day. Today was not a sad day. Today was a day that could be turned into whichever way I wanted.
“Come inside,” my mother called, as sweet as the birds chirping in the bush next to me. I took my time and eventually reached the front door of the home with bruised feelings and broken hearts. But today was different. Today had happiness. Today had possibilities. Today was endless.
I let Toby off of his leash when I had shut the door. He walked off and towards my mom’s radiating kindness that always gets him treats. I walked further inside, into the brightness that shone through the old windows. My mom kissed me on my cheek without saying a word. And then I left again in silence down to the basement. Chloe, my sister, was waiting for me along with my dad. He grabbed the car keys and we headed outside into the bright abyss.
At least, that’s what it looked like.
The bright light was harsh against my eyes that had become accustomed to the low-lighted setting of the basement. I squinted and kept walking forward, unaware of where I was going. Once I reached the old 1993 red Jeep Wrangler, I could see and I easily climbed my way into the back seat. There were only doors for the front seats so instead of moving the seat forward and climbing in, I pulled myself up using the strong metal bars that usually provide support for the heavy metal roof that we took off. Once everyone was in, my dad started the car and it squealed like a piglet when it’s first born. The squealing eventually subsided like it always does and we left abruptly like a sentence not yet finished.
As we drove, the wind screamed in my ears. The sound blocking out everything else and made me focus on the trees sprinting next to us. Only when we stopped did my hearing return. And after 7 loud minutes, we reached our anticipated destination.
The Samuel Staples Elementary School parking lot.
Seeing the school after 3 years of leaving left me with a feeling I couldn’t describe. Sadness. Happiness. Guiltiness. I couldn’t tell you.
My dad pulled the car into the vacant lot that would become our driving track today. He set it up between two rows of parking spaces, turned off the engine, and got out. I was nervous. Excited. Anxious. I was everything. My sister was going first, and her turn took an eternity. I begged for my turn and after my sister agreed, I was in.
My dad had moved the seat further up for me. My legs just a little shorter than my sister’s. Chloe climbed into the back this time and my dad sat in the seat next to me. I had no clue as to what to do. My feet groped around until they found where the three pedals were. I waited for instructions while my knuckles turned white as I gripped the wheel.
“Press down the clutch and the brake at the same time,” my dad instructed, expecting me to know what that means.
“Um, which one is the clutch?” I questioned, feeling my heartbeat speed up. I had no idea what I was doing. Chloe was almost 16 and needed to know how to do this. I was not even 13 and had no purpose knowing how to drive. But I couldn’t stop now. I couldn’t stop knowing that Chloe was better than me. So I placed my feet on the pedals that I was instructed to. Adrenaline rushed through my body making the steady thrum of the engine necessary to keep my foot from bouncing up and down.
“Now for the driving part. Start with just the clutch pressed down with your left foot and with your right, press down the accelerator slowly,” my dad explained. I nodded slightly and while keeping my left foot down, the right came down with it.
But I wasn’t moving. And the car was making a noise it shouldn’t.
Oh, shoot, I think I broke the car, is what first popped into my mind. I quickly lifted up my right foot and sheepishly looked over at my dad. He was laughing.
“Why are you laughing?” I asked, starting to laugh myself.
“Because you couldn’t start,” he replied, chuckling to himself as all dads do. “I forgot to mention when you are pressing down the accelerator, you lift the clutch at the same speed. Otherwise, you don’t start,” he explained, chuckling again at his non-funny comment. I again placed my feet the way he said and slowly the accelerator went down.
And suddenly I was moving.
It felt like we were just rolling because of the annoyingly slow speed but then we picked up speed and even though we were probably not going faster than I could run, I didn’t care. I felt fearless. I felt powerful.
I was nothing and I was everything. And I chose to keep it that way.