The morning I turned 16 I waited by the front door for my dad to take me to the license office.
He was surprised, because I hadn’t told him we were going. It never occurred to me that there could be anything in the world more important than me getting my driving licence on the morning of my 16th birthday.
Anxious years followed as I tried to hide the heat of my desire to take the wheel of every car I encountered. If they knew how badly I wanted it they would look at me oddly, and they already looked at me oddly. No one trusts a teenager who tends to stare into space and leave her wallet in the refrigerator.
I volunteered to haul wood one afternoon for a chance to drive the tractor. A trip to the next town to thrift shop, for a chance to drive on the highway. I can’t express my hatred of thrift shopping without obscenity, so I won’t.
There was a conversation with a coworker – a young man who had ridden his motorcycle from California. He’s an MMA fighter now, then he was a clerk at Safeway. 2 weeks later we took a 90 dollar cab ride to some obscure suburb to pick up my new motorcycle so he could drive it home for me.
That first night, he showed me how to work the clutch and shifter, then I drove it straight into the nearest brick wall. Sometimes love hurts. It hurt again a few months later when I laid the bike down at Cattle Point, parked the wreck in my parking spot and didn’t look at it for three more days, when I noticed I had left my gloves on the gas tank.
The thought of not riding didn’t occur to me. I bought a Silverwing. The seller proudly showed off his wife’s baby bump as he handed me the keys. I had no interest in babies. The Silverwing had a stereo. It played Johnny Cash loud enough to make people roll up their windows.
I dated a young man long enough to borrow his mother’s car and take the final road test for my license, then took a job at a German auto dealership, where all I had to do was move beautiful cars around the lot all day.
On such a day, I took one car to the glass shop and met another young man, who followed me back to work, then home. He took me on a date to a racetrack, where I rode in his friends car as it moved at high speed, sideways, all around the course. I had to leave early, so he gave me his car keys. No funny looks, just trust. Bring it back tomorrow, he said. I can catch a ride home.
We drove to Vancouver, Mill Bay, Shawnigan, North Saanich, Campbell River, Nanaimo, Seattle, Hope, Abbotsford, buying horrible cheap wrecks of cars to drive them into the ground. Sometimes none of the cheap wrecks worked, so we took my third motorcycle, an unreliable 300cc Kawasaki. I remember driving two-up over the Malahat in January with snow on the ground, passed by large trucks as my carburetor struggled with the low air pressure, but I don’t remember being cold.
Some weekends we rose at 5:30am to get the race car started and go to the racetrack. He drove; I sometimes drove and rode in every car that would take me.
The young man left the country, but somehow I still get invited to the racetrack. I’m not sure if the racers accept me on my own, or only as the plus-one of their absent friend. But as long as it lasts, I go, and ride in every car I can. Mind the cash box, or volunteer to wrench for a chance to drive a beater in a hill climb.
These boys spend all their money and time on cars. I question my dedication sometimes – I don’t own a car, have not gone into debt for the sake of racing, I’m not even sure what a coilover is. But racing seems to be the focus of my life.
I still have to hide it. If the universe figured out how badly I want to drive in the hill climb, it would find a way to cheat me out of it. Don’t tell anyone.