"I don't want to be your friend anymore."
I was 5. In Kindergarten at the school down the street. One of my closest friends, I think her name started with a T, just relayed this information to me.
God, kids can be harsh.
Luckily, just as my eyes were welling with tears, my dad pulled up to the school's drive and I managed to run into his car before they let loose. He knew what was wrong, and immediately he drove in the opposite direction of home. We traveled down Power Road until it left the city, and turned into a wildlife reserve, trailing around the Salt Lake.
We drove and we talked about things that weren't bothering us. And I forgot all about the girl who's name might have started with T.
"Everything will be ok," he told me.
It was another day, when I was 13, stressing about my life in Junior High. I'd gotten out of school early, he did not have to work. But neither of us felt like going home. And so we drove, this time down Brown, up the mountain, talking as we curved up the winding paths.
Age 16 and in High School. It was a Saturday, and only a week before, we'd gotten a foreign exchange student. The two of us didn't quite click at first. And so my dad took us on a drive, far up north, to a lake we'd gone to when I was 4 when we had gone camping. We walked along the water's edge, and then made the drive back down the mountains, and we started singing Disney songs. My dad and I in English, my then-on sister in French.
Age 18 and my dad was going to drive me to California, to college at Chapman University. I was to be the first person in the family to ever earn a Bachelor's degree. He was so proud of me.
That was a drive we never got to make.
I spent a lot of time in the car with my dad.
He took me to all the places I know. Everything from picking me up from school and driving me home, to my first ever job, out to Phoenix, to Disneyland all those times, up to the mountains, across the country to North Carolina and Florida, both times to San Francisco. He was the one who taught me how to drive. All the time I spent with my dad in the car, was all the time we got to know one another. Many times, in the early morning drives to Las Vegas, he and I would be the only ones awake in the car, and we'd spend the few precious hours speaking quietly, getting to know one another. We told each other our biggest secrets in the car. He learned about the first boy I ever fell in love with on a drive, and he told me the story of how he failed college Algebra three times when he was younger.
After the drives stopped, it never quite hit me why I had the strange urges to get on the freeway and simply drive. I never quite understood why the idea of a commute never bothered me. Or why I had the desire to explore the hill past the Target on Meats, to learn as much as I could about my new surroundings.
I never understood this feeling, until I realized that my fondest memories of my childhood took place on the road, in a car. My dad introduced me to the world as I sat in the passenger seat. It was a world that I hungered to know.
Now I sit in the driver's seat, driving myself too and fro in a strange city, far away from home. But I don't mind.
I miss my dad a lot lately. I miss the way when we would drive, how he'd put his hand on mine and smile at me. I miss his cough, and his sneeze which scared everyone each time it happened. I miss how we'd always go to the movies, miss the way he and I challenged each other to be our better selves. I miss when he would bring home flowers for my mom, miss the way he and I could make up shit that anyone could believe because we were that good. If our relationship were literature, he would be Mr. Bennet and I would be Elizabeth.
I miss the drives, when I was able to sit in the passenger side. I miss being a passenger as my dad helped lead me, not only down the road, but through life.
I'm 20 now. Twenty years old, which means I've been street legal for four years. One-fifth of my life. For two of those years, I've been driving myself, unguided, and not knowing where to go, only relying on the tips my dad gave me so long ago. I don't want to be the driver forever. I want to switch off and on, from passenger to driver.
And, eventually, there will come a day when I will be driving someone through their life as well. Someday there might be someone, who's name may begin with T, and I'll be the one driving down the road, out of the city and into the wildlife reserve, as we talk about all the things that don't bother us. And I'll be the one to say "everything will be ok".
And that scares me. I have a lot to compete with.
Despite the accidents, being in the car makes me feel as if nothing can go wrong. As long as I'm in the car, I'm going to be ok. No matter if it's a drive back home where I'm crying because my heart was broken, no matter if someone's decided they don't want to be my friend anymore, no matter if it's a 6 hour drive just to go home and see where my dad now rests in peace, nothing was going to go wrong.
"Everything will be ok."