I never felt more freedom than right after Anita got her first car. We were sophomores in high school, but Anita had been held back a year because the move from Indiana to Virginia at age twelve really messed up her grades that year. So she turned sixteen at the very end of our freshman year, and had gotten her license as soon as her parents drove her up to the DMV. It was doubly magical to me that she could drive, as I was a summer baby, and I wouldn’t turn sixteen until two days before our junior year started.
For the summer months, driving was just an occasional treat—when we really wanted something from the store that was just too far away to be able to walk in the heat of the summer, and it was with her mother’s minivan and strict, strict instructions about being careful and following every last rule.
But the weekend before school started, Anita’s father came home with an old red Corolla, and after making her promise three times over to be careful, and having her swear that she would always be home well before curfew—he handed her the keys.
Every morning, she’d pick me up, and we’d park on the street near the school, because as sophomores we couldn’t get passes for the school lot. It was nice because it saved us a little time in the morning instead of getting up for the bus—but that wasn’t the best part.
The best part was after school—when we’d convinced ourselves that we didn’t have too much homework. It was still early enough in the school year that it felt more like summer than like fall, so we rolled down the windows and played music as loud as her sound system could handle without starting to sound terrible. We drove out to the middle of the nowhere and drove down nearly empty roads for as long as we could get away with. I felt like a proper adult for the first time in my life, in spite of the fact I had no idea what being an adult actually meant—I still felt free. I’d never managed to capture a feeling quite like that every again.