By: Amber Soha
I remember this lecture my dad gave me when I was a kid before I really understood what alcohol was. He told me never to get into a vehicle with someone who had been drinking.
“You’re going to keep your grandfather company while he runs errands today,” my grandmother told me. He wasn’t really my grandfather, but I was too young to understand that history. “Your’re his favorite,” she explained.
“But daddy says never to get in a vehicle with someone who’s been drinking.” I was confused. I’d seen the man swill two beers that morning after his coffee and medication.
“Your daddy is a smart man, but your grandfather hasn’t really been drinking.” Maybe beer wasn’t alcohol.
I watched as the truck pulled up, and went outside to climb in when I was cued to by my grandmother. The dust from the driveway was still settling, but I could already smell cigarette smoke pouring from the open window. Daddy had told grammy not to smoke in the car with us, but I guess he forgot to tell my grandfather.
I climbed up onto the bench seat and pulled the seat belt down across my chest. Just as I was about to buckle it, he said, “Why don’t you sit closer to me?” I looked up at him briefly, noticing a smile that now, as an adult, I can see was creepy on this man. His face was always red, and he had a giant bulbous nose to hold up his glasses. His eyelids drooped, and he was missing teeth, but he seemed nice enough and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I scooted closer.
“C’mon, I won’t bite. Sit next to me,” he said. I was uncomfortable, but I was taught to do as I was told when it came from an adult; not to question authority. My father was militant about obedience.
I slid up next to him on the red leather seat, and discovered that the seat belt wasn’t working. “It’s okay,” he said, “I’ll keep you safe.” He placed his hand on my thigh. It didn’t feel right, but I’d always seen my dad do that with my mom in the car, so I thought he was just being affectionate. My grandmother did say I was his favorite.
We started down the long driveway lined with ancient maple trees, past the tire swing my grandmother just made my father put up for us, and I could feel myself sliding off the seat. I planted my feet on the floor, closing my legs on the right side of the stick shift.
He stopped at the end of the driveway to help me get into a more secure position. He squeezed me right up next to him, opening my legs and placing them on either side of the shifter. “There,” he said, and patted my thigh. He shifted into first as he pulled out into the road, dropping his hand on my knee and sliding it back up my leg, looking at me all the while, like he was expecting something.