40. Car Keys: Write about someone getting their driver’s license for the first time.
He pressed the key into his hand so hard it left an imprint in his palm. He looked down at the angry red mark, it expanding and detracting as he flexed his hand.
He looked up to see the car owner, smiling at him cautiously.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “I’ll take it.”
Her face split into a huge smile. She started babbling happily, about how hard it had been to sell, and how she didn’t understand why, because she’d only done 20000 miles in it, which is absolutely nothing, so there was just the matter of payment, he’d said cash but…
“I have it here.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the wad of dollars. Her eyes widened. “I get paid in cash,” he said, by way of explanation. The money had been sitting under his mattress for months. He had carefully added to the pile every week, counting them again even though he had already worked out the new amount in his head. He counted them again now, carefully, methodically. “There you are.” He handed the wad over to her, and she took it, just as carefully.
“Well – ” she seemed at a loss for something to say, wanting a sale of something as big and important as a car to be more official, more complicated somehow.
“Anything else you want from me?” he asked evenly, hands back in the pockets of his old denim jacket.
“Um…” she said, flustered, “Well, no, I think that’s it! Uh, well – enjoy it!” And she offered him a nervous, but earnest grin.
“I will,” he said.
He watched her get into her car and drive away. He watched until he was sure she was not even a speck in the distance. It was important for him to watch her go, to make sure she was completely gone, because she was the very last part of his old life. And now she, like it, was gone.
He leant backwards and breathed in the clean early evening air. The sun was just, just beginning to set, layers of deep orange beginning to tease the pale blue sky. He looked at the car. It wasn’t half bad. Wasn’t half bad for years and years of working dead-end jobs, flitting from one to the other when he was offered 50 cents more an hour. Wasn’t half bad for all the time he revised for his theory test in his room, shoving the books under the pillows if he thought he heard his mother or her boyfriend stumble past. Wasn’t half bad for all the times he had slipped into his mother’s boyfriend’s car in the dead of night, his heart pounding, praying that they had both drunk themselves into the deepest sleep. Wasn’t half bad for all the sideways he had got at the DMV when he turned up and announced he was ready for his driver’s test.
He was in the car now, feeling the steering wheel in his hands. The car had a faintly flowery, comforting smell. He rolled his window down and let the car smell intermingle with the deep, dark, woody smell of the pines that lined the road. He thought of how it would feel to race away, to feel the rush of the engine beneath him, to see the pines become a green blur, to feel miles slip past him as he put more and more distance between himself and the town that tried to crush him and squash him to make it fit its own small, narrow ways.
He breathed in, fully experiencing, fully feeling the air fill his lungs.
He put the key in the ignition.