We should have just sold this car.
(It is Friday, the forty-fourth Saturday of the year.)
I really kind of sort of hate driving, so what’s the point of owning a car? Whenever I drive, I carry this fear that I hit somebody. It could be an animal or a pedestrian or a child. I keep having to get out of the car and make sure that I didn’t hit anyone. Then I have to drive around the block five times. After that, I might start to feel better. My youngest sister, Janelle, says I look in the rearview so much that I probably will end up in an accident. I think that in her own way, she thinks she’s helping. She’s not. When I get home, I’ll check the news just to make sure there weren’t any accidents in Southbourne. I flinch whenever I hear sirens. I can never be too certain.
“Hop off, buddy,” I whisper under my breath, glimpsing at my side mirrors to make sure no one is lying in the road because of me.
To be fair to the car behind me, I am going a bit too slow. I’m on my way home from driving my sisters to school. Ever since my mom left us a couple months ago, I have to pick up her slack. I don’t mind handling the laundry when my dad can’t do it. I like clearing the dishwasher. I hate driving, though.
Today is nothing special. Today is just another day where my mind runs wild with questions. How would I actually know if I hit someone? Would I hear it? If I’m this doubtful about my driving abilities, I must’ve hit someone. I’m going to go to jail for hitting someone with my car. Vehicular manslaughter. Fleeing the scene of an accident, too. What’s gonna happen to my family? I’ll never be able to forgive myself. My life will be over.
When I’m two blocks away from home, I get out of my car to do my routine check. I always check on Clark’s Road to make sure I didn’t hit anyone. I always park in front of the yellow colonial-style house. It’s the one house that is really out of place for the crappy neighborhood we live in. The lighting is perfect for checking for bloodstains. I never find any of course.
The morning air is fairly cold for late October as it attacks any exposed skin I have. The sun is beginning to rise, leaving a beautiful array of colored clouds in its wake. It serves as a distraction for five fleeting seconds. Bright pink clouds, the color of the highlighter Janelle always uses on homework, hang over my head. It’s fascinating how nature does that, but it’s confusing that I completed up to eleventh grade and I still don’t know why. When I look above, peace washes over me like a wave to the beach.
I find no dents on the side of my dad’s car. There’s not a trail of blood coming from the tires. I take a two-minute walk down the sidewalk, but I find no bodies have been flung in the bushes. I see no damage, yet I feel no relief. I give up, get back into my car, and circle the block five more times. Five is my golden number. Five means safety. Five loops later, I still carry the heavy weight of uncertainty on my shoulders.
Maybe I did hit someone. What if the police show up at my door tonight? What if my dad answers? Fifteen years married to my mom and then one day she’s gone. The pain he’s going through must be a lot to live with. I can’t have one stupid mistake make things worse for him.
I’ll call the Southbourne police precinct tonight. I know they have a lot going on, given that this city grows more violent with each passing night. Is it a waste of resources to call again tonight? I need to be certain. They told me not to call again when I called last yesterday. I could call the local emergency rooms, too. That’s probably a good idea.
My head throbs from all the thinking. There’s so much tension in my shoulder that I think I could faint. I ignore it. I just need to make it to the weekend. When the weekend comes, I don’t have to drive my sisters to school and I will run away to New York City and tell my dad I dropped out of school. I just need to make it to the weekend.
After a few more loops, I hop out of my car on Clark Street to double check. My heart nearly thuds out of my chest when my phone rings, flashing Dad on the screen. The first thought on my brain is questions of if I hit someone and didn’t notice. Are the police at my house waiting for me? Is that why my dad’s calling?
I force myself to take a deep breath. Then I worry about more “normal” things, like maybe my mom returned or maybe something happened to my sisters at school. I worry so much that I almost miss his call.
“Hey Dad,” I say, trying to hide the tired cracks in my voice. “Everything okay?”
“You were supposed to drop them off an hour ago. I wanted to make sure you were okay,” he explains.