Driving with My Mother- Part 2
Read Part 1 here.
When you drive, we make really good time. You speed exactly nine miles over the limit because if you are caught going ten miles over, the fine doubles. You hate driving in the east because there are too many cars and the speed limits are too slow, but you love driving in Montana, where you can legally drive as fast as 90 miles per hour. You know when to slow down outside of small towns and cities which often place state troopers a few miles on either side for the first and last exit. I’ve seen you get pulled over before, like that time outside Boise, but you never got a ticket. How do you do that?
You picked up a hitchhiker once. This was before I was born, obviously, because you were still a student at Puget Sound and you were driving Brutus back to Tacoma from Colorado after a break. You had told your parents that you would not be alone and that a classmate would be driving with you. But there wasn’t anybody else. At least there wasn’t anybody else until Idaho. You said it was raining and dark. You thought you had seen somebody wet and at the side of the road when you drove by. That’s a human being, you thought. He must be miserable. You doubled back to see if he wanted a lift. You told him to get in the car and he whistled for a wet dripping dog to get out of the ditch in which he was hiding. The hitchhiker apologized and said that he knew that nobody would stop for both him and a wet dog but you interrupted him and told them both to get in the van anyway.
May I please take this moment to interject that you would kill me if I picked up a hitchhiker in the rain at night? Especially if I was by myself. Your story is a textbook beginning to a horror movie where you end up dead in a ditch. But you didn’t. In fact, it was lucky that you picked up that hitchhiker. Brutus was rapidly approaching his final days, and he stalled at a rest stop by the border between Idaho and Oregon. The only way to restart the engine was to hold the clutch in while you were rolling. Your hitchhiker had to get out and push Brutus while you popped the clutch. When the engine started and the revived van began to roll away, your hitchhiker had to run to catch you and jump into the moving vehicle, his dog frantically barking in the back.
Brutus could barely inch up the steep mountain passes in Oregon but he made the time up on the downhill and probably ended up averaging the speed limit, so that’s what you told the state trooper who pulled you over. Your hitchhiker was in the back of the van packing his pack so he would be ready to get out in a few miles, and when the trooper saw your passenger, he informed you that hitchhiking is illegal in the state of Oregon.
“Oh, William and I are old friends,” you lied. And perhaps you were old friends, or you are now, at least. It didn’t matter that his name wasn’t William, or that you would never see him again. He had been there for you, and you for him, and his presence in your own personal mythology now seeps into my own.
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The day-to-days of an Itinerant Illustrator