Ten minutes after the scheduled time, I open my driving instructor’s car door, but soon realize that it’s not actually him; a stranger is telling me to get into his car. This is how abductions occur. But he explains to me that Mike is sick today and so he’s taking over his shift. Reluctantly, I step into the impostor, Tommy’s, vehicle.
As the trees in my periphery blur by, I feign an ultra-cautionary glance at my right-hand mirror, but instead peer at his face for an instant before returning my attention to the road. I recognize that the tightness in my chest isn’t solely due to my anxiety over maneuvering the wheel correctly once I arrive at the road test site, but is also due to my intrigue with potential fictional motives I can uncover beneath his amiable facade. The adrenaline caused by fear-inducing, but non-actualizing situations has set in. I’m fascinated.
“There’s no reason to be nervous,” I remind myself. I’ve veered off the busiest streets of New Rochelle in every possible direction, except for one right turn that leads to a steep hill, which is far too treacherous for the road test. I’ve perused the driver handbook, only taking breaks to pore over mystery novels about the truly twisted beings who live amongst us. My pupils have dilated as I’ve simultaneously crawled underneath my sheets and into the minds of compulsive murderers who hang out at local bars and push shopping carts. I’ve examined their deformed cerebral gears and picked apart their tragic childhoods, only to piece them back together.
For a moment, I imagine that my instructor is the type of serial killer who disguises his extraordinary intellect with his soprano chuckle and greasy hair, and that his letters to the police station serve as mocking harbingers of his ensuing escapades.
Waiting for my turn to take the test, I lean towards Tommy as he points out a faded scar spanning from his wrist to his elbow. Supposedly, it’s a consequence of a motorcycle accident, but I “know” that it’s a battle wound from an early, amateurish kill.
Once the test begins, I make a few wide turns and land at the bottom of the dreaded hill. Panic sets in. Soon, the examiner tells me to pull up to the curb, and he hands me my results. The 95 printed in bold font on the slip is hard to miss. Maybe this driving site uses a different scoring system than most, and I’m almost perfect. Maybe the police station doesn’t already have a large printout of my face with the word “warning” scribbled across it in red sharpie. Maybe all of those hours of practice weren’t in vain…
I let out a sigh. To my surprise, it’s more of a release than an admission of defeat. I’m not as upset as I expected to be after failing a milestone of young-adulthood. While I’m determined to eventually pass my road test, I look forward to mostly relying on public transportation. I look forward to being around complete strangers and wondering about their greatest desires and fears. I look forward to scribbling down dramatizations of mundane plots as I travel around the city.
Still, I’m disappointed that I allowed myself to be disturbed by the poor timing of Tommy’s appearance, as well as the unexpected hill. I didn’t trust my subliminally guided wrists to navigate the car. Nor did I ever before trust my unhinged imagination to roam so freely and effortlessly, I suddenly realize.
Sitting in my English teacher’s office the next day, I delve into a conversation about why the character, Dexter, a deranged man, is so lovable. That night, I’m no longer hesitant to publish an article about the cultural intrigue with protagonists who occupy the darkest corners of the earth. “They let us explore the hidden corners of our own minds,” I conclude.