How I learned to Drive

In desperation. In madness, a maniac in the passenger seat, I learned to drive. At 17, I had just got my driver's license, later than everyone else (but my apron-strings boyfriend, Sam), because I could not parallel park. Twice I took the test to park against the curb, twice the police officer failed me. The third time, he gave in. The street lamp had not suffered any dents that time.

The maniac? Oh, him. He was not the police officer, but the gentleman who sired me, or pa. He never let me (ever) drive alone. He always sat on the other side of the front seat kicking at imaginary pedals on the floor on that side, screaming, "Break 'er down! Break 'er down!" He meant for me to use the brake, but I always assumed he meant to demolish the car, stall it out, with his sudden demands for reducing my speed. I always 'broke' 'er down, just like he told me.

He watched every line on either side of the road, at one and the same time, too, to see that I did not stray an inch in either direction. The margin was too soft, you'll go in the ditch, he would in all haste warn me, desperation in every limb, if I got any closer. Watch the telephone pole on that side, too. Remember the electric wires. On his side. You'll hit the car coming towards us if you don't get over. Get over! Get over! Drive between the lines, dear. Try to drive between the lines.

After I got my glasses changed, I couldn't see any lines any more, just yellow and white blurs. Don't try to pass him! He's a chicken truck, feathers flying into the window and clogging the windshield wipers. He'll turn off in a minute. He never turns off—he's going to Canada with his lively load and will be on our north-bound road until we turn off. Feathers and new glasses. Stay within the lines! Break 'er down! Break 'er down! Now get over for the left hand turn. Put the brake on, or break 'er down! Break your new car? I'm frightened of dents. I knew he always was, whenever he took me driving. At one point, I got into the car and drove myself, alone, and I knew what I was doing then.