Getting your driver’s license is pretty much society handing you the keys to the BMW. It’s the mother eagle pushing its child off a cliff. It’s everybody’s Bar Mitzvah. But mostly, it’s society’s way of testing your boundaries. To see if they handed you the keys to power, to freedom, which road you would take. At my school, getting your license is a pretty big deal. Once you get your license, you run out of things to talk about with your other friends. You’re sick of bitching about your hometown; you never want to see another one of its pizzerias or pavement cracks again. Freedom is a cult that everyone starves to be in. But you have to go through Hell to get there.
And all of these thoughts are rushing through my head, a demented mosaic, as I walk the familiar streets to my town’s DMV. I hear terrible stories, stories that, I hope, had gained fire as they crashed through my school’s sphere of gossip. John told me that it’s so hot in there, that five minutes waiting in line made the river of sweat on his skin bubble. Lisa swore to me, with wide and honest eyes, that her driving test administrator was the Devil herself. Pushing the cloudy glass doors open, I prepare myself for the worst.
The waiting room is a fiery sauna. Scarlet seventeen-year-olds are packed against maraschino cherry walls, drenched in sweat and rubbing bloodshot eyes. There’s one boy crouched on the floor with his head on his knees. At first I thought he was praying, but I realized that he must have lost that instinct long ago. I wonder how long he’s been waiting here.
In the far corner next to a pot of dehydrated roses, I see a line of desperate teenagers in front of a heavy water cooler. There’s no cups, so they rapidly press the lever into their hollowed-out hands, but as the water touches their skin, it dissolves into vapor.
Minutes slowly turned to hours, and I’m on the verge of saying, screw it. Screw it all. Screw responsibility and adulthood. Right now, I terribly want to crawl back into my mother’s stomach. But I hear my number called, so I drag myself to the distant voice. I push through the heavy iron door. It could have been a safe. And I felt a burst of snowy air. My salvation.
The secretary smiled, and she’s an angel. She’s wearing a flowing white dress, and her golden eyes look like the gates of heaven. “Lily Thompson? Please enter the first car on the left.” The shifted her body to point to the door, and I saw a red tail.
I entered the car, and it was even more hellish than the waiting room. The seat burned my bare legs, and the black leather wheel made my skin sizzle. “Good luck,” sneered the red man who seemed to materialize next to me.
I barely passed, and I’m barely alive.