I never bought her one of those motorized cars for kiddies. They seemed way too decadent, and the looks on the faces of the tykes who were driving them around the neighborhood were not really looks of joy. They were more like looks of, "Hey, dipshit, look at me! I can con these idiots into buying me any damn thing I want."
I did take her golfing a few times and got a riding cart, which was against my religion when it comes to the way of walking life which should be called golf. I did it just so she could drive it. That was the only reason she would have wanted to spend four hours with her old man hanging out with a bunch of other old men cursing like sailors about the wayward trajectory of a dimpled sphere.
But now she's turned sweet sixteen, and I am thinking of all the times I've said, "Oh, having a girl is much easier than having a boy. I sure wouldn't want one to put me through what I put my parents though. It would kill me." I'm eating those words now, like so much uncooked crow. I'm eating cold black bird while she is shining way too bright and flying way too high, my little sunshine.
I guess if she hadn't been the perfect child up until now, this wouldn't be so hard. I've seen some of her friends' parents and the looks on their faces as they gave up along the way. "Fuck it. Let the little bitch flunk out. Let her get knocked up by that asshole. I quit." I felt a sense of sorrow as well as a tinge of anger at these attitudes about the fruit of their loins. How could you just give up on them so easily? How could you quit?
Well, now I know. You get them a goddamned car and a driver's license and let them find a wiseass senior in high school who can sweet talk them into making out with him right in front of your face. I bet his parents don't give a damn if he is doing his best to screw my daughter. The lucky fuckers. Sitting there with their, "Oh, it was rough when he was young. The rebellion, the angst. But now he's seventeen and he is on his own. A young man. Doing his thing." While I sit here and plot with my wife on what possible plan we could come up with to keep him from doing his thing to our little girl. That thing. That thi-i-i-ng. I should have never let her get that Lauryn Hill CD. But how can you stop them?
I think back to when I was the senior who couldn't get a date with any of the girls in my class 'cause they were already screwing around with the college kids. The only pool of talent left to pick from were the underclass girls. And they were either so naive or so horny that it was like sitting in a verdant orchard, with the juicy fruit falling off the tree into your lap. And this was long before every possible form of media was screaming at the top of its lungs:
YOU WANT TO FUCK. THE WHOLE WORLD IS FUCKING. WATCH SPRING BREAK ON MTV. LISTEN TO MORNING RADIO DRIVE TIME DJ'S. LOOK AT FELICITY. DON'T YOU WANT TO HAVE FRIENDS? FUCKING IS FUN. FUCKING CAN CURE WHAT AILS YOU. 97.4% OF EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS FUCKING RIGHT NOW. ARE YOU FUCKING? WHY NOT?
A long way from Leave it to Beaver and The Life of Riley. It's hard to imagine how all this sensual propaganda would have affected us. I cannot imagine. But I know it's not good. It cannot help.
I suppose she will survive the sexual assault. It's really the car that gnaws at my innards. I have a close relative who got killed in a car wreck just as she was reaching adulthood. That scares me to death. She, too, was an only child.
So now I'll get to sit by the door and worry again. I haven't done that in a long time. I am not nearly as good at it any more. I have lost patience along with hair.
DAY ONE WITH CAR: She drives herself to school. She drives herself home. Everything seems fine. This is the set-up to make the upcoming disasters appear even worse.
DAY TWO WITH CAR: She is not home when she's supposed to be. I begin to worry. An hour later she calls. "Daddy, my cell phone is locked and I can't get it to work. I'm at Lauren's house. I gave her and another girl a ride home from school. I'm on my way home now." I want to yell at her about how she wasn't told she could be taking other girls home, but I realize she's all proud of her newfound freedom and wants to flaunt it. I'll let this lie. But it's now getting dark and it's raining pretty hard, and time is passing and she's not here. It should only take fifteen or twenty minutes for her to get home, and now it's been over an hour. The minutes start to stand out like sculptured ornaments on the face of the clock. She finally drives up almost two hours after the phone call. She had gotten lost. I want to understand. I've been lost in a city before, and it is pretty scary when you don't know East from West and don't have an overall view of the street scheme. She's upset. But not nearly as upset as me. Her mom intervenes and keeps me from going postal, but I wanted to hear, "I'm so sorry" when she walked in. "I got so freaking lost," was not a good show starter for me. It was the first time I'd seen her cry real loud tears in a long, long time.
DAY THREE WITH CAR: Her cell phone is working again now, and she calls me after school. "Daddy, I left my lights on this morning and the battery is dead. What do I do?" It's been raining for two solid days. It's like a mood ring of moisture. I had told her three things, specifically, not to do.
- Do not drive around and get lost. Stay on familiar roads.
- This car doesn't have a reminder for when the lights are on. Be sure and turn them off in the daytime if it's raining.
- Do not lock your keys in the car. Especially if it's still running.
I tell her to wait there and I'll bring some jumper cables
. I get there and attempt to start the car with the jumper cables. It doesn't work. Not enough juice. I flag down two other cars and get them to let me try. It's raining hard. It's getting dark. Not enough juice. I put her in my car and drive around trying to find a service station
. I finally find one. (Do you realize how few actual service stations there are in the world today? If everyone still drove American cars
, I damn well can guarantee you that we'd still have plenty of service stations! Damn the reliability of those Japanese cars
.) The fat guy there tells me he hasn't got anyone to go over and start the car, but I could try his "box." His box is some sort of portable battery which he says is twice as strong as any car you could use for a jump. He hands it to me with a smile. I say, "What sort of deposit do you want me to leave?" He says, "I trust you. Don't worry about it." Can you imagine
that? In the year of our Lord 2001
, in a metropolitan area, with crime as rampant as mold on unwrapped cheese, this guy (who doesn't even ask my name) is going to let me take his "box" with me with just a promise
to bring it back? And the not so subtle connotation is that he's not even going to charge me for using it? Is this a result of 9/11
? Is it because it's near Christmas
? Is it because I look like an honest guy? Well, it must obviously be connected to current events
and not my aura
We take the magic blue box back to her car and get it cranked. I'm so relieved. Her school is not in the best part of town and I was so concerned that we'd have to leave the car there all night. I did not expect it to be there when we returned the next day. So I tell her to follow me back to the service station to return the box to the nice man and to NOT TURN THE CAR OFF UNTIL WE GET HOME AND DO NOT LET IT DIE. We get back to the service station and she and I both have to pee really badly. So I take the blue box into the nice fat man and ask him how much I owe him for its use. "Nothing." I knew it. So I guiltily ask him if my daughter and I can use his rest room before we drive home. "Sure, here's the key. They're around back." Sweet relief. And I'm sure she's feeling the same just one room over. Things are going to be OK. We'll work our way through this rough spot and she'll be my little girl again and I'll be her daddy and we'll go home and cook some popcorn and dry off.
So I tell her that I'll follow her home in my car. She says, "Let me have your key to my car. When I left the engine running, like you told me, I accidentally locked the keys in the car." Of course, my set of keys to her car are at home. Home, where I would transport myself and stick a gun in my mouth at this point, if I only could. I'm standing in the rain with her. Rush hour traffic is piling up in the dark. Police sirens are blaring with officers attempting to handle the pile up of wrecks going on around us. I want to put my hands around her neck and throttle her, a la Homer Simpson, and watch her turn blue. I want to go find this new boyfriend of hers and tell him that if he kisses my little girl in front of me again, I will rip his lungs out and piss on them while he dies.
Instead, I go back into the service station and tell the nice fat man that she's locked her keys in her car, and it's still running. He smiles and says, "Oh, we can fix that." He takes some tools out and goes out and spends ten minutes, with the rain pelting down on his fat head, running down the back of his shirt, coming out of the legs of his pants, unlocking the door on her car. At one point, he turns around to us, standing under the shelter of his awning, and says, "Why don't y'all go inside, where it's warm, while I do this?" I tell him that we want to be punished. I tell him that no amount of discomfort for us at this point could make up for the guilt and the depression I feel at watching him do this for us. I can tell that he's not going to charge me for doing this, and that just makes it worse.
When he finally gets the door unlocked, I say, "I must pay you for this, at least." He says, "No. You don't owe me anything. Did she just get her license?"
I say, "Yes. She's had a driver's license for three days, and (so far) she's gotten lost, left her lights on and run down the battery, and now she's locked her keys in the car with it running."
He smiles a big burly smile and says, "Hell, the first day I got my license I totaled my old man's car."
I feel better. Maybe it can all be OK again. God bless the kindness of strangers.
Day Four is tomorrow, and it’s a weekend. Pray for me.