There’s a road back home in Mechanicsburg called Good Hope Road. I can safely say without much hyperbole that I rode it every day of my life from my first day of sixth grade to the day I moved to Evanston. It’s a scenic, curvy little number that runs alongside the Conodoguinet Creek with the hill coming right down to the road on the one side and an immediate guiderail on the other and I was always afraid that one day we were going to get into an accident on that road and spin out of control and end up in the creek and the doors would be wedged shut somehow and I would drown. It’s a laughably misnamed road.
I was half right. There’s a house maybe two miles up along the road, on the right-hand side, with a concrete garage in the front yard and a driveway before the garage. The garage is old and gray and the concrete bricks are dark with years of rain discoloring, but there are four or five clean bricks that make up the base of the garage, noticeably a few shades lighter than the rest of the gray.
Those bricks are mine, they’re there because of me. Because of my dad, more accurately, he was driving — and because of the car that hit us that January morning and forced us into the garage and took out the foundation bricks the owners eventually had to replace. The garage stopped us from spinning out into the lake, but we took it out in the process. Those bricks are mine, they belong to me, and every time I drive along the road I keep an eye out for them, a morbid sort of trophy of mine, a testament to the fact that I very rightly could have and should have died.
I know the road like the back of my hand. When I was in middle school the girl I had my first big crush on lived on one end of the road and when I was in high school the girl I had my second big crush on lived on the other end. I learned all of the dips in the road, where the rain pools in the springtime and how the very far edge of the road freezes over from the sleet that drips off of the guiderail in the winter. I learned that, in the setting afternoon sun, the trees cast long dense shadows on the road and when you drive through them fast enough it’s almost like driving through an optical illusion. It’s like driving in slow motion, and everything just sort of drops away and you’re left with the gentle hum of the engine keeping you company.
I learned that driving 20 mph over the speed limit and beginning at the Good Hope and Erbs Bridge Road intersection, you can listen to my default go-to life sucks therapy song “Sometimes” by My Bloody Valentine in its five-minute-nineteen-second entirety, the last dregs fading out just as you pull up to the curb outside my house. I learned, many times over, what it feels like to come this close to getting into an accident on that road, and I learned, once, what it feels like to succeed in that respect. I learned what an old garage with five new bricks looks like.
In the fall the leaves on the trees on the sides of the road turn pretty shades of colors and eventually fall off, blanketing the road itself. In the winter the sleet freezes overnight and slicks the road beyond traction. In the spring the April showers pummel the road nonstop. The summer is by far the most boring time to drive — the car handles the road perfectly, never once slipping up or hiccupping, and you never feel as if you’re skating the razor’s edge between life and death, between exhilaration and total and utter destruction. I look forward to taking the last hairpin just a little too fast, my car threatening to roll as the tires slide over the icy leaves. Lets me know I’m still alive. Gets the blood pumpin’ again, gets some adrenaline flowin’.
My dad was a Navy pilot in his younger years. He loves to go fast, something he passed on to me. When teaching me how to drive, he taught me that every other car on the road was Charlie looking to shoot me down. Sometimes I needed to use my agility and my speed (I was fortunate enough to have a beast of a car, a white Infiniti G35 lovingly dubbed “Manuel”) to avoid accidents — he taught me to think ahead of the “enemy,” to expect them to try to “shoot me down” and to anticipate their actions so I could avoid them when the time came.
He taught me how to drive safely and responsibly, so much so that I can skirt danger and still maintain complete control of the car for a surefire fun time. My friends will tell you I drive far too fast and that I accelerate too quickly just because I can. I’m safe about it, though, and this often goes over their heads — I’m one of the few kids my age who has never gotten into an accident, a formidable feat considering the central Pennsylvania winters, notoriously bad roads and absolutely crazy drivers.
I’ve run my fair share of stop signs. I tailgate like no other and more often than not I forget to signal when changing lanes. I make my fair share of driving mistakes. I’ve been lucky so far. Those bricks keep me grounded. They’re the things I miss most when I’m at school and the things I look forward to seeing most when I come home again. They’re a constant reminder in the back of my head of what awaits just around the curve, driving just a little bit too fast, bending over to change the song instead of paying closer attention to the road.
The bricks almost killed me when I was younger but now they’re the main things keeping me alive. The knowledge of what getting blindsided, spinning out of control, paralyzed with fear and slamming into someone else’s’ garage at 55 miles per feels like. It’s a sort of my own personal Ghost of Christmas Past, reminding me of what once was, how terrible it was, and how I should live my life, drive fast, have fun, be young, but still try my damndest to never wind up in the back of another ambulance. I don’t want to cash in on my bricks just yet.