Growing up, every kid dreams of getting his or her own driver’s license. Since the early age of 13, or maybe even before that, my friends and I desperately wanted the freedom to come and go as we pleased, to feel the sun on our faces and the wind in our hair as we’d cruise down the road without a care in the world (well, besides the “check fuel” symbol that flashed on the dashboard). For my friends and me, that was all we needed.
It was the very beginning of September 2005 when Kendra got her license. She was the oldest girl in my grade and the first of us to get a full-fledged license. Naturally, we squealed with joy and excitement the first time we all crammed into her car together. Her driving was our VIP pass to our social lives, our freedom.
Six weeks passed, and several other people in my class got the so-coveted driver’s license. Some people passed with flying colors, while others had to try and try again. Meanwhile, I trudged through every day as if it were a lifetime before I could take those keys as my own for the first time, and every day my excitement grew exponentially.
On October 22, 2005, my sixteenth birthday was a week away exactly. It was the homestretch I’d been waiting for, but there just was one more thing to celebrate before I had time to think about driving myself: my friend’s birthday party. It was a cloudless Saturday afternoon when Kendra, the birthday girl, and another friend arrived at my house to pick me up, so we could all head to the party together. We piled into Kendra’s car. The birthday girl was in the passenger’s seat buckled in, while I sat sideways in the back seat, my legs thrown over the other girl’s lap in order to avoid sitting on cupcakes that Kendra had made for the party.
“I spent hours on those! You better not mess them up!”
We set off down the road, laughing and singing to the blaring music. We were so enthralled with each other and the excitement of the situation that we absentmindedly lost track of where we really were. The four of us shrugged it off lightheartedly as we continued down a foreign dirt road. We kept up the conversation and laughter until we realized that the birthday girl might be late to her own party. Kendra stepped on the gas in hopes of gaining lost ground, and before we knew it, we were flying down that dirt road.