School was less painful since I now I had a steady boyfriend, and I was wearing his ring. I felt normal. Doug came over my house most days after school before he went to his job. If he left my house too late, he sped out of the driveway, the tires kicking up gravel. The car screeched up the road.
The next Saturday, wearing our blue corduroys, we got into the car for our date. Before we got to the restaurant, Doug stopped and the liquor store and bought some Southern Comfort whiskey. We passed the bottle back and forth between us, taking big gulps. I liked the sweet taste; it went down smoother than most whiskeys. After dinner and a movie, we passed the bottle back and forth again. Then Doug drove me home, reaching 110 miles per hour at some stretches of road. It was scary but exhilarating.
“He drives too fast. He’s going to get killed. I don’t want you to be in the car when he gets himself killed,” Father predicted.
Why not. I’d rather be dead anyway than listening to you yell at me all the time.
Growing up, having everything you say and do criticized: brush your hair, get your hair out of your face, why don’t you smile, your pants are too tight—you look like floozy, why do you wear that sweatshirt every day, why don’t you wear something nice, why don’t you dress better, why don’t you wear nice clothes, hold your stomach in, stop slouching, don’t cross your arms when I’m talking to you, just to name a few…you get to the place where you don’t want to listen to anything that anyone says because words hurt. All words hurt. Every word someone says is an insult because it is the filter that envelopes you, and through which all words must be processed. Words are not a way of communicating with another human, but a way to hear how bad you are, how wrong you are, how fat you are, what a dipshit you are, what a loser you are, how you can never do anything right, and why don’t you just do what I told you.
The next spring, Doug got rid of the Cadillac and bought a dark blue 1965 Chevelle. It was a nice car and drove fast, although not as fast as the Caddy. Doug drove me to my friend Valerie’s house for a party. Valerie lived in a development where the roads had speedbumps. Doug drove fast and then slammed on the brakes before going over the speedbumps. We laughed and laughed.
We mingled with friends at the party. Later, Doug looked at his watch. “We need to leave. I need to work in the morning.”
“But I don’t want to leave, let’s just stay a while longer.”
“No.” His eyes bulged at me; he sighed and straightened his shoulders.
“Okay, okay.” I turned to my friends. “Bye. I’ll see you later.”
Doug breathed heavy as we walked to his car. When we were both inside and closed the doors he said, “Why do you always do this to me? You know I have to work in the morning. I told you we had to leave, so just do what I tell you.”
“I wasn’t ready to leave yet,” I snarled.
Doug took a deep breath, turned the key, raced the engine, and slammed the car into gear. The tires squealed as we pulled away. Within seconds, we were at the stop sign. Doug barely slowed the car and pulled onto the main road, pressing the gas pedal firmly towards the floor. I looked over at the speedometer, which said 95.
“Why don’t you slow down? You’re going to hit somebody,” I said.
Doug’s only reply was to press the pedal harder.
“Why do you have to be such a jerk?” I asked.
Again, there was no verbal reply. Doug pulled the car into the driveway, slammed it into ‘park’, blurted a “goodnight” and I jumped out and slammed the car door. He responded with a quick and jerky three point turn on the side lawn, and raced back out the driveway.
“What the hell is that?” Father bellowed as I walked in the door.
“Yeah, I got that much, but why is he driving like that? He’s going to get someone killed.”
I ignored him and went up to my room.