“Grab the wheel”
Wide, brown eyes gazed over at me from the passenger seat. She said nothing. Just shook her head.
“Come on! Grab the wheel!”
Silence. Pleading eyes and silence. She understood me far to well and recognized the twinkle in my eye. She knew what I was planning and the anticipation was smothering her with a blanket of fear that prevented her from uttering a sound. In her mind she must have been pounding on the dashboard screaming, “Stop, you fucking moron!” She should have.
I might have stopped.
I was caught in a current of adrenalin and was fully committed. It was going to happen.
I turned my head to talk to the passenger in the back, a tall, lanky boy with whom I had been friends for a little over a year. He and I shared a connection that we both recognized the moment we first met – impulsiveness. Both of our actions seemed to be governed by the same demon and we often pushed each other to see how far our inhibitions would take us. That day we had reached our limits.
My friend had already positioned himself between the two front seats, hands on both head rests. He too had blinded himself to the only rational person in the car and told me that he was keen take the wheel. I didn’t even have to ask him. We smiled at each other like idiots.
I returned my attention to the speedometer. Forty. I figured that that was fast enough and flipped the gear shift into neutral.
I looked over at her one last time hoping to get a glimpse of the same rush that I was feeling. What I saw was anything but. Blank stare. Chipped nails gouging into the dashboard. Pure terror.
And I ignored it.
Instead, I nodded to my friend who was already leaning into the front seat and pushed myself out onto the windowsill.
The second that my hair caught flight in the silky wind I felt it – the surge of freedom that I craved every second of the day. I locked my feet firmly between the driver’s door and front seat and leaned backwards, oblivious to anything but the adrenalin coursing through my veins.
Six blocks until the T-intersection.
My hands flailed wildly and I howled like a mad dog into the winds. I was intoxicated in the moment and wanted more. Had I thought about the possible consequences of what I was about to do, I most certainly would have failed. In moments like these, when your life is hanging in the balance, the only thing keeping the scales tipped in your favor are calm, resolute actions.
Luckily for me, and the two passengers still in the car, there was neither hesitation nor doubt in my mind as I pulled myself back up to a seated position and kicked up off of the front seat. My body moved with the wind as my feet pounced from the upholstery to the window ledge and out onto the roof of my parents’ car. My fingers clasped at the felt interior on either side of the vehicle and I clung tightly now wasted on a rush of energy, excitement and life.
Five blocks left.
For a second, time stood still. I didn’t notice the passing houses and yards. I couldn’t hear the rush of air blowing past my ears. Honestly, I don’t think I knew where I was. All I could feel was my heart hammering in my chest and my blood surging through my body. I knew, without a doubt, that I was alive.
This lasted for but a moment before I was brought back to reality by my friend who was still steering the car from the backseat. He had begun pounding on the ceiling underneath me, signaling me to get my ass back in the driver’s seat.
Four blocks left.
I took one final glance at the world that was whizzing by and began to slide my body towards the driver’s side. I had little difficulty bringing myself to a kneeling position and I had no trouble bringing my left foot over the ledge on onto the windowsill. And then I slipped. Not much, but enough to get my heart beating – this time with fear.
And that is when all grace and style left my body. Suddenly I could see the black asphalt racing by beneath the car. The windowsill became much more precarious and the car seemed to have picked up speed.
Three blocks left.
With all of the strength I had in me, I pressed my left hand onto the front window pane and my right hand onto the roof. Unfortunately, fear had brought on a sudden sweat that caused the cool metal to lose some of its traction. Reality kicked in with a vengeance and I was afraid to move. I needed to calm down.
Two blocks left.
I looked ahead at the tall oak tree standing unwavering before us and was compelled to move. I stumbled one more time to get my right foot on the grooves of the window sill. Success. Finally I had a solid footing. I could hear my friends’ screams from within the moving vehicle ordering me to jump down. I remember thinking how cold the wind felt as we passed into the last block.
One block left.
I closed my eyes, and reached down with my right hand for the JC handle on the driver’s side. Gripping it tightly, I closed my eyes and pulled in. Somehow, like Bo Duke, I managed to slide into the driver’s seat. Without thinking I grabbed the wheel and pulled hard to the left. The squeal of our tires screeching across the pavement echoed through the neighborhood and we slid around the corner. Both tires slightly tapped the curb as we drove to the end of the block and stopped at the intersection.
I looked at my friends, smiled and drove off in silence…
King of Wishful Thinking, by Go West, brings me back to grade twelve and thirteen, when I was very much ‘in’ to urban surfing. A good friend of mine (who wasn’t in the car with us at this time) loved the song. I remember driving with him in his van one afternoon. I attempted to slide open the side door and climb out onto the roof. As I was halfway out of the van, he hit the brakes hard causing the door to slide shut. The slam of metal crushing my chest and skull was enough to deter me from getting on the car again … for awhile.
I am amazed at the things I survived during my late teens. Like many boys passing through this time in their lives, I was plagued with a sense of invulnerability. Far too often, I leaped before I looked. If I were a cat, my nine lives would have been used up at least a dozen times.
As I watch my little girl grow up, I pray that she does not lack the common sense that I found myself missing. I hope that she can avoid the chapter that I called, ‘being stupid’. But she is young and that is a part of youth. Alas, I will keep my hopes up and continue to be the king of wishful thinking.
King of Wishful Thinking youtube link