Posted on March 17, 2015 by Patricia Ann McNair3.17.2015 Journal Prompt Photo by William Eggleston March 17, 2015: They were so young. Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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My dad showed me once. He was a mechanic, see, and he knowed stuff. He explained the nuts and bolts of how it worked and all; then he let me try. I can’t tell you the thrill I felt when I touched the wires together and the engine just purred into life like a well-stroked cat. Dad laughed and he said as how I was a natural and he said he’d make a mechanic of me yet, sure as stars. He smeared oil from his hand onto my cheek, which was something he saw done in a movie once and was maybe like a sign that we was of the same breed.
But the thing is, we wasn’t. Not really. I din’t even like the smell of the oil and I din’t get how my dad’s eyes lit up when he looked under the bonnet of a car, looking for the trick he could pull to make it start again. And my dad’s hands was always black even when he’d washed ‘em and was sitting down to supper. Mam’d ask him if he’d washed up cos there was no way of telling. And I hated that.
I growed my hair about that time and I reckon that was me kicking ‘gainst my dad’s short back and sides. And dad took to calling me Shirley and he said I had hands clean as a girl’s and he said I looked real pretty in my coloured shirts. I was a disappointment to him, I suppose, and I get that now, but back then it was my dad as was a disappointment to me.
See, my dad drove a beat up and rusted Chevvy Coupe from the 50’s. It was red once, but by the time my dad was driving it, well, it was all colours from the bits that had been replaced over the years. Dad was always fiddling with the insides and he said as how one day he’d have it running smooth as oiled ball bearings. Kids in the street all laughed when they saw it coming, and I was embarrassed, and so my dad was a disappointment.
He coulda had his pick of cars with what he knew, but he was in love with that Chevvy. He said it had sentiment attached and he looked at mam when he said it and she told him to hush up his dirty mouth so I never did know what it was that the car meant to him.
All of that was why I started taking cars and hotwiring them like my dad showed me, and just driving ‘em till they had no more running left in ‘em. I was real careful so no one knowed, ‘cept Connor, and he sometimes came along for the ride. And we’d just hit the road and keep on going, the windows rolled down and the radio turned up loud and Connor and me singing at the tops of our voices and feeling like we was kings.
‘Course it was stupid and we din’t give no actual thought to the person whose car it was. I get that now, but back then it was like we was hot-wired to be stupid and selfish and shit. I din’t ever crash one of ‘em cars I stole and I tell myself they was probably returned to their real owners with nothing more than the gas to pay for – but I know that’s just me trying to feel good ’bout who I am now.
And my dad, well he’s passed now, years back, and I got his Chevvy Coupe in the yard and it’s rusted a little more than it was back then; the engine don’t have a spark left in it and I ain’t got the know how to bring it back to life so as when I lift the bonnet it’s just a mystery to me. I sit in the car sometimes and I roll down the windows, sitting there till the stars come up; and I smell oil on my fingers from ignorantly fiddling under the bonnet, and I think ‘bout my dad and what we was to each other and what we shoulda been.