The Traffic Light
By Julissa Arce
I was stopped at a traffic light and was about to drive across a major street for the first time. I could hear my heart beating.
My dad was sitting in the passenger seat telling me put both hands on the wheel.
I was thirteen and didn’t have a driving permit; he was wasted and smelled of Lone Star.
Like many other Saturdays, we had spent the afternoon at his friend’s mechanic shop. During the first few hours of our visits, he would teach me things about cars. He said that if I wanted to be a good driver, I had to know more than just how to drive a car. He taught me how to change a tire, how to change the oil, and what to make of different sounds coming from an engine.
He would send me to the wait in the truck after more and more beers were consumed by him and his buddies. I would do homework while I waited for him. When he was ready to go, he would drive us to the Seven Eleven near our house, buy a six-pack of beer and an icee for me. When we got home, he would retire to his room and tell me to order a pizza for dinner.
But that particular Saturday, I waited until dark and then went back inside to get him. He was sleeping on a chair, his buddies were playing cards.
I woke him, “Daddy, it’s dark outside. I’m hungry.”
“Oh. I am jusssst taking a lil nap,” he said as nearly fell off the chair.
“Ok daddy, why don’t you come take a nap in the truck”
“ Ok.” He got up and put his arm around my shoulder as I guided him to the truck.
“ Good-bye fellows, I am going to sleep in the car,” he said to his friends. They waved a hand and continued their card game.
We were in the truck for a few minutes when my dad woke up and demanded to know why he was in the truck and not playing card games.
“You drank too much daddy,” I told him.
“ Hell, I did. Aren’t you hungry? It’s dark out,” he replied. “ Let’s get you a pizza”.
He reached in his pocket to get the keys out, and I reminded him that the truck was already on. “Smart,” he said. “Running the radio for that long would have drained the battery if the engine wasn’t on.” I smiled and put my seat belt on.
He started driving toward the Seven Eleven and veered off the road onto the sidewalk. I let out a scream.
“What the hell!” he said as he re-gained control of the wheel.
“Are you ok?” he asked me.
“Yes, I am alright”.
He managed to take drive us to the Seven Eleven but we were still a few miles from our house. He turned the truck off and said he needed to take a nap before driving us home. I went inside the store to buy him some water and chips.
“Make sure to get your icee” he shouted as I walked away.
When I came back, he was laying across both seats.
A few people started at us as I tried to sit him up on the passenger seat. I sat in the driver’s seat for a while and decided I was going to drive us home.
He had been teaching me how to drive since I was 11. We had done enough laps around our old apartment complex, surely I could drive us a couple of miles.
I leaned over and put his seatbelt on, adjusted the mirrors, and turned the engine on.
The more I drove, the more scared I got. As we were sitting at the traffic light, he opened his eyes and realized what was happening. I thought he would be furious. He told me to stay calm, and to remember to put both hands on the wheel.
“Your left foot better be doing nothing,” he said.
“It’s not daddy.”
“That’s my girl,” he said as he smiled and closed his eyes again.