Sunday, July 26, 2009

Passing By

Your first set of wheels. Technically mine were a little blue bicycle that transported me from one adventure to the next.

My first automobile was another matter. What I wanted was a Camaro Z-28. What I GOT was a high mileage 72 VW Bug. NOT exactly the muscle car I had envisioned. But all the budget would allow.

Insurance was reasonable with straight A's, but gas was the biggest part of my budget. Dad expected us to pay our own expenses with a car, but he did keep track of our whereabouts with it as well. To this day, Dad still grins and asks me how come going to the library and back took 44 miles. It was a rural town, traffic was light and crime was nonexistent. We roamed in our cars as we did on our bikes, cruising up and down main street like sharks watching for tourists, anxious to see if anyone had anything nicer than we had, looking for new faces in a crowd of kids who had all played together since kindergarten. You never saw kids in their parent's expensive cars, what we were in, we bought ourselves, and fixed up ourselves, Glass Pack Mufflers, 8 Track Players and afternoons under a hood instead of hanging around a mall.

Some folks down the road here bought their kid a new SUV when he turned 16. He's been in and out of juvie so many times for fights and vandalism, I've lost count. When he wrecked it they bought him a new one. They pay for his gas and expenses because as Dad says "he doesn't want to work at McDonalds". They see no correlation between his spoiling and his growing criminal record.

My first car was as cheap as it came. It didn't even have a radio, so we stuck this giant tape player under the right hand glove box where I would come screaming home after classes (well as screaming as you could in a VW Bug) with "Back in Black" playing way too loud through the speakers.

But soon I was graduated, and on my own and I had to buy my OWN wheels. There many cars, a truck or two, and my all time favorite, a 67 Baracuda 380S which we somehow managed to stuff a 440 big block in to.

My love affair with machinery started young. Girlhood dreams sung to the tune of "Radar Love", a very well used tape from a Dutch band, one I inherited from my older brother and listened to regularly, years after it had faded from the airwaves. Miles and miles of dreaming about the freedom I'd have when I grew up and became an adult.

Then somehow I became an adult and that much awaited freedom came with it too many things to do, responsibilities blocking that open road. What happened to those days of curving roads and youth? Somehow they vanished with a mute, befitting, hollow sound, which drove for only a moment upon us, with the dreadful still hush of motion stopped, too abruptly to mourn. Adulthood was here and our vehicles became simply transportation again, something to shuffle kids around, a transport to work, something to haul cattle feed, dog feed and Brigid feed from town.

I got up this morning, a quiet Sunday morning of reflection and pause. I opened the door to my garage, the house still, myself, utterly motionless in stockings and a large T shirt that was once worn by someone much larger than I, comforting in it's sheer size. I look out from my height, listening, on my face a look of adulthood come too early and following me around like a reservation dog.

Today is my day of rest, yet within me I'm restless. I open the knob to the garage, to put out some trash, infinitesimally quiet, the door creaking gently open so not to wake Barkley, and I saw through the crack the big dark form of my truck.

It's a large truck, extended cab, with a short bed. It cost as much as homes used to and serves me well, serves me practically. On it's stereo is Vivaldi and Celtic music, dignified adult music.

As I bend back up, having deposited the empty dog food bag in the trash, I catch a reflection in the side window of my truck and see my own face. The face of a practical and shrewd fighter, of the expert in the anticipation of and controlling of life and it's doing, yet in the face there is something else. Overlaying it all is the plaintive need of the child in all of us, seeking release, wanting to leave a parent's watchful eye and just feel the wind in my face.

I need to take to the road. No chores, no errands, no responsibilities. No speed limits. Barkley is rousted out for the adventure, my hair hastily put in a pony tail, face scrubbed clean and fresh, blue jeans and a white button down shirt, my standard uniform since high school. Garage open, I silently open the car door, as if sneaking out, and fit my form into the leather seats with a lascivious eagerness that is wasted on youth. The seats fit my shape, an old familiar embrace which no amount of days can change.
"Time to get going!" I say to Barkley as I do each morning in my lonely room, when that last full exhalation of sleep has left my form and I look from beyond the portals of sleep to yet another new day of adventure. With a shuddering tremble of a racehorse at the gate, the truck backs out into the drive.

Windows open, I have no place to go, I have no one who cares if I arrive. My parents are still slumbering several time zones West of here and won't be waiting up for me. It's just me and my ride, miles of road interspersed with the angular cuts of corn fields, ringed with blue sky, windows rolled down. I sort through old CD's at a red light, selecting some not listened to for a long time. As the truck moves onward, I watch the side of the road as ghosts of the dreamers, of destiny, wave at me from stands of grain, behind them the dark throng of land and friends and new life I've found here. I wave back to the landscape, with a small burst of gravel, fabric against my skin, sound of cotton and warm flesh in action, the heat of the road in me.

Ahead is only the miles, with nothing to do but take in the occasional broken road sign and empty barns breaking up those small patches of cleared earth, whorled with hard work, small square islands of grain. My home is more than a small house, my life more than work and heartache, it's this whole open world. Up ahead a horizon, up above a sky, inscrutable, desolate above the land it wombs. I surge from a stoplight, Billy Idol with a rebel yell, hitting the highway.

Adulthood can wait for just a few hours. The chores will still be there when I get back, a report to read, an autopsy file, a flotilla of dust bunnies under a bed in the guest room. Time doesn't matter when I'm on the road. My age doesn't matter with the steering wheel under my hand. I'm outside of time, speeding past that demarcation between what I should do and what my heart tells me to do, between old life and new. The asphalt flows past, blue sleeves and tanned hands, my lips forming into soundless words, the thump of the beat of the music, pounding along with my youthful heart.

I've been drivin' all night, my hand's wet on the wheel
There's a voice in my head that drives my heel
It's my baby callin', says I need you here
And it's half past four and I'm shifting gear

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