~~ The greatest thing that happened to me in high school was when I acquired a beaten old Mazda protégé. My car (which I quickly christened Sheldon) was originally a pristine white I supposed but time and use had caused rust to spot the hood like measles and to cling to the metal along the bottom. It was missing three of the hubcaps and had nearly 200,000 miles on it but it was cheap, got good gas mileage and was surprisingly reliable despite the sick rattling that I chose to drown out every time I drove it by turning up the radio and singing along to an REO Speedwagon cassette I completely wore out by the time I graduated high school.
After a few quick lessons on driving stick shift in the school parking lot across the street from my house I was quickly making use of my newfound freedom. At first it was jerky stop and go along the narrow one lane roads of West Kaysville passing large houses and fields of horses that seemed to watch my amateur attempts of a smooth transition from gear to gear with mild amusement but soon I was confident enough to venture further onto the winding back road from Kaysville to Centerville and even the freeway when I was assured enough with my skill at driving a manual car.
The more time I spent in my car the less I wanted to spend at home. I had found an escape, a way to get away from the monotony of my life in the house I had spent the last 12 years living in. At the time my little sisters were splitting their time between that house and our mom’s house in Layton and my father didn’t get home until late at night during the week so most days I would come home from track practice and load my dogs in the car and just drive.
Sometimes we would go nowhere, just drive from city to city singing along to the scratchy cassettes or letting the wind whip through the car tangling my hair into hopeless knots as I laughed at the dogs with their heads out a window on each side, their long ears flopping wildly as we raced down the road. Other times I would leave them at home and go by myself to a church somewhere and park the car in the parking lot and just sit and do homework somewhere that wasn’t home. My favorite was the days I ran away from everything and left all the other cars and people behind to drive up to the mountains going as high up as my car could go then leaving even that behind as I entered the cool shade of the trees. Some nights I would get my sisters and we would drive past the houses and go out into the farms on the edge of Kaysville to sit on the back of my little white Mazda and watch the stars. Those nights we didn’t have to say anything, we were all happy for the reprieve of daily life and let the silence and the dark of night surround us.
I often considered the rationality of just packing up the car and driving away. I had no idea where I would go but at the time it seemed like such a trivial detail and plans were overrated anyway. When I graduated high school I did just that, I loaded my car with as much as I feasibly could and drove as far away from home as possible while still staying in Utah waiting for when I can afford to keep driving.
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