Negro Please: The Blog will be retired on or around January 22, 2007. This is a trip through the archives. If you're still hankering to read my writing, you can do so at VOX. Fair warning: it's much different than my writing in this space. I encourage friends and family to register at VOX to get past the velvet rope of my privacy controls there.
This piece was originally posted on August 27th, 2002. It has been slightly edited but not as much as I thought I would have to do. I was awfully screwy with my tenses at this time but this one stays pretty solidly in the past.
My new dad drove an old, green station wagon. I say new dad but that suggests an old dad and really, I can't remember ever having one of them before then. So, he's really just dad. When you're 4 and someone tells you this is your dad you say, "OK! Piggy Back Ride please!" and you're just happy because some giant wants to pick you up and fly you around the room. That changes later.
He drove this station wagon he called the green machine. The seats were shredded with yellow tufts of fluff sticking out at inopportune places. It was the loudest car in the history of noisy automobiles. I covered my ears when it started or when he drove into our driveway. The muffler rattled. It was prone to loud bangs if it was having trouble revving down and turning off. I hated that car.
It hated me as well. It swallowed Star Wars action figures. I would be playing with Luke in his Tattooine whites, walking along the rough terrain of the back seat while storm troopers hid in the cushions or behind seatbelts waiting to strike. When Luke got in position to be attacked by Stormtrooper #1 ready to pounce from the space between the seat and back cushions, he was nowhere to be found. I drove my small arm into the small opening and rummaged around but...nothing. The car let out a small bang from its muffler. It sounded like a belch.
My father gave me a warning every time we got in the car: Don't lean on the doors. The latches weren't strong and locked or unlocked, with enough pressure, they would fly open. This is a hard directive to follow for a very young boy with a penchant for daydreaming and a need to observe things. Because of this, most of the time I was strapped in in the middle of the large backseat. Which was horrible, I was far too short to see out the front of the car and unless I strained my neck, I couldn't see much out the two side windows. But I wasn't leaning on the doors and that was a good thing.
One night though, I wasn't strapped in the middle. I wasn't strapped in at all. It was late, maybe 8:30 or 9, and dad was running to the grocery store. I begged to come with. It was far too close to bed time and I wasn't about taking a bath and going to sleep yet. He agreed just so that I would stop bothering him and quickly got me in the back seat. No warning this time. No making sure I was strapped in the middle. Just get in the car and go.
I stared out the window with my head laying on my arms leaning against the glass. We sped along the road and I watched the trees fly by, the older boys doing tricks with their bikes in their driveways and the flashing of fireflies in the night sky. I wondered what it would be like to float through the air with my butt lighting up at my whim. What signals would I send? What tales would I tell? The door flew open and I fell forward watching the gravel of the road go by. At 5 years old you don't have your life flash before your eyes, you don't even consider that you're about to die. I was amazed at all the different colors of gravel in the road. I could see the flecks of glass, the white stone, the random flecks of orange and red and yellow.
My dad grabbed my shirt and held onto me as I was precariously close to tumbling out of the car. I don't know how he drove and held me at the same time. Eventually he was able to muster the strength to toss me back into the car and slam the door. He pulled to the side of the road and checked to make sure I was okay. I had been until he made such a fuss.
His checking of all my limbs, his cursing, his hugs, his kisses, the heaviness of his heart beating in his chest when he hugged me, the sweat on his brow, his worry that my mother would freak, it all came to mean one thing in my mind: something bad just happened. I stopped talking and I sat very still. My eyes were quite large and I started to shake. My dad lost it. He worried that I was going into shock, or worse, that I would look like this when we returned home.
He asked, "Wanna go to 7-Eleven?" I turned to look at him and didn't respond but my shaking stopped. He continued, "You can get a slurpee and any comic books you want. Archie, Jughead, whatever." I agreed.
When we got home, I had arms full of comics and pockets full of candy. I quickly kissed my mother and told her I was going to bed. She asked about a bath but my father told her I'd do it in the morning. I didn't eat any of the candy but I read Betty and Veronica and some other Archie books before passing out.
That night, I dreamed I was a firefly with an amazing story to tell.