Driving lessons (FICTION)
Two weeks went by. It was another Saturday and I was alone in the apartment. I woke up and as usual spent the first half hour sitting at the edge of my bed staring out the window at the cars parked between white lines of paint. I thought back to other times I was desperate to learn something but nobody was available or willing to teach me. I was 10 years old, and I couldn’t stand being around my mother longer than a few seconds. But every Sunday she took her own sweet time to plait our hair for the week ahead, starting with the little people. Then it was my turn and I sat for what seemed like a lifetime, my head between her knees, as she parted my hair and spread African Pride grease on my scalp and made small need braids in a pattern that if she was in a good mood, I could choose, or otherwise it was whatever she decided. Determined to get out of this forced togetherness, I vowed to teach myself.
For three weekends I stood in the corner of the living room pretending to memorize my Spanish vocabulary for school but instead stared through the corner of my eyes at mother’s hands as they over my sisters’ heads. Her index fingers criss crossing, while both thumbs danced between them, loops of hair going this way and that until finally a neat braid from the crown of the head to the nape of the neck. And then repeated ten more times until what was once a halo like mass of curly black hair was now artfully created braids. Then, one Friday, when my hair was loose again, just before I washed it, I practiced the movements I replayed in my head all week. Two months later when I successfully plait my entire head of hair I announced proudly to mother that she didn't have to do mine anymore, I knew how to do it myself. She looked at me then looked away.
I freed myself from the tangle of my polkadot sheets and fleece blanket then stepped onto the carpeted floor. Grabbing my computer form the dressing table I waited for it to boot I nodded and said ‘yes’ to no-one. I had a plan. I opened a browser window and typed youtube.com. I nodded again and smiled expectantly as I typed HOW TO DRIVE in the search bar. I didn’t even know if I would get any results, but I knew that if I could find it anywhere it would be here. My mouth fell open when I saw the pages of relevant results. There were endless tutorials of regular people explaining how to drive a car. From the simple detail of how to put the key into the ignition and how to turn it so it starts, to how to tell if you are almost out of gas. It was all there. It wasn’t until my vision started to blur that I realized i’d been watching these videos for four hours nonstop. I hadn’t yet eaten for the day. With shaking hands I toasted two slices of bread and before I could spread the peanut butter smoothly, raced back to my computer screen to continue my lessons. Crumbs fell on the sheet and poked into my skin as I moved about mimicking what was playing in front of me.
I could teach myself how to drive, I didn’t have to wait on anyone. The rest of the day and all of Sunday I sat on my bed, laptop overheating in front of me and learned how to turn corners. I learned that at an intersection, the person on the right of you should always go first and that you should always wait until there were no cars coming before merging onto a highway. The slower traffic should drive in the right lane and pedestrians always have the right of way. The sun had gone down and my vision was blurring again, but now without having left my apartment, I knew how to drive. With a level of confidence I had not ever known I walked to my closet and withdrew the stack of bills hidden in the pocket of my green waterproof jacket. I counted them. Twenty five hundred dollar bills. I knew how to drive now and was ready to buy my first car.