02 March 2011
4 the boat show
i'm 10 or 11, sitting in the passenger's seat of my grandfather's 2-door 1983 chevy beauville sportvan.
my feet do not reach the floor unless i sit on the very edge of the seat so that the tiniest fraction of my butt is barely even on it. but when i sit on the very edge of the seat like that the nylon webbing of the seatbelt cuts deep into the side of my neck so i sit back. it seems far more important to keep my head on than to have my feet touch the floor.
my grandfather and i are going to the mid-south memphis hunting and fishing boat show extravaganza. this has become the most exciting thing ever in the history of the world because my grandmother has made it quite clear that it is a place entirely indecent for little girls to go.
but my grandfather insisted. he said, burvil, she needs to go.
my grandfather is next to me in the 1983 chevy beauville, the jar of planters peanuts that has been in the center console of every vehicle he has owned for as long as my mother can remember, sits between us. he periodically reaches in and extracts a handful, half of which is then deposited into my upturned, extended palm.
he feels far away.
we are sitting in a 1983 chevy beauville so there is, in fact, thanks to the roominess that the general motors engineers of the 1980s deemed essential for front seats, a great distance between us. but there's also another far greater. i am 10 or 11, on the cusp of adolescence, a development that will, seemingly overnight, set up barriers- both physical and emotional- that had not been there before. barriers that will take years to come down.
he feels far away because he is far away. because i am moving away from him.
i am 10 or 11, and we are driving down danny thomas boulevard on our way to the mid-south memphis hunting and fishing boat show extravaganza as it is dawns on me that my grandfather is going to die.
that my grandfather could, quite possibly, die right then, as we're driving to the memphis cook convention center in that 2-door 1983 chevy beauville.
my grandfather never knows any of this. that, as we drive down danny thomas, i am sitting quietly beside him calculating the amount of time necessary to unbuckle my seatbelt and traverse the vast expanse of the front seat and take over the wheel in the instance of his sudden death.
the salt of the peanuts cuts into the palm of my clenched hand as i contemplate the mechanics of this encroaching calamity.
i am 10 or 11. it does not once occur to me that i do not know how to drive. i have completely forgotten that my feet do not reach the floor.