The first time I left a moving vehicle should have cured me from ever letting it happen again. But in a family that considered emotional expression a sign of weakness, passions had to be creatively released. In our case, they happened on the proscenium of four wheels and a gallon of gas.
I was three years old when it all began. My parents were arguing in the front seat and I opened the back door and slipped out. The second time, at sixteen, I was thrown from a boxy Ford Falcon. It was the day John Kennedy was assassinated. Instead of going straight home from an early dismissal of school, I suggested a spin through Dead Man’s Curve. My friend who was driving, lost control, we were abruptly stopped on a utility pole, the passenger door popped open, and I cannonballed through the air and onto the street.
The third, and hopefully last time, was during my divorce. Everything was unraveling, including the latch on the driver’s door of my Dodge Dart Swinger. I took an exit off a highway, the door flew open, and as I grabbed it, it yanked me out of my seat. With one hand on the steering wheel, the other on the door handle, my rear scraped the pavement. Using the Herculean arm strength of someone about to die, I pushed myself back into the still moving car. That pulled the steering wheel to the left, which inadvertently prevented me from going through a guard rail and over an embankment. Before I came to a stop, the passenger side of the car scraped the rail from the front end to the back bumper.
The middle accident resulted in a concussion, and the first and last falls required the extraction of pieces of gravel from my hide. They were small prices to pay considering what could have come to pass. All I can say in my defense is I came by risk-taking rightfully.
Bravado, speed, and danger were the language my mother used to articulate words she dared not speak. The year seat belts became the law, she said, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in them. They’re for sissies.” It’s no wonder I curated a vehicular vocabulary of my own.
This legacy began to change when I moved to New York. Over time, I learned to express myself without a car. And considering my history, it was pretty clear that uncanny miracles as my only salvation could not be counted on forever. Nor could feeling most alive when about to die. Unlike my mother, it has always been my intention to live a long life.