By Dalton Hicks
The first one needs to be cool. You can’t turn 16 and expect to pull the ladies if you’re driving a Ford Focus, and, God bless him, my father saw to it. In my naive mind, the $50,000 Ram on the dealer’s lot seemed reasonable.
“Dad, you always say to spare no expense on things that separate you from the ground. Doesn’t this qualify?”
“I was talking about shoes and mattresses, dumbass. Here, this one’s more like it.”
It was as if Margot Robbie walked into a room full of threes and fours, immediately commanding my full attention. Silver in color and single cab, it was a looker. The crank windows and lack of CD player only added to its allure, capped off by the bench seat and rubber floors. I had to have it. And have it I did.
It was game over as soon as the black ice air freshener donned the rear view. Washed, waxed, and ready to terrorize the parents of the debutantes, I felt like an outlaw. I hit the road by myself for the first time the next day, and the blinders of adolescence were removed. I can go fucking anywhere in this thing.
It carried my tools and lumber when I needed to work, and cheerleaders when I didn’t. It dodged deer and speed traps in a futile attempt to make it home before curfew, and sat in the driveway when Dad needed to teach me a lesson. It was there when we broke into state parks for camping trips, serving as our pack mule for firewood and beer cans.
The truck earned some scars, and I was damn proud of them. The scratches from riding through the deer woods only added to its character, like patina on worn leather. The chlorine bikini stain on the middle seat was cause for some seat covers, but I always knew it was there. And, somehow, there was always more tread on the front tires than the rear.
I’m certainly older now and the truck is long gone. The truck these days is newer and nicer, and the cheerleader is now a wife, but there’s something missing. It’s not a lust for adventure, because that’s ever present. It’s not missing a bygone era filled with bad decisions amongst friends, because that too is alive and well. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that I’m missing the simplicity—the devil may cry attitude when going through life, windows down.
That’s what I decided to do the other night. I told the wife I’d be back in a couple of hours, and I went for a drive. It took some time to tune out that nagging inner voice, the ever growing list of to-dos and obligations that comes with a busy life. But halfway through the next county, the stars were out and heat lightning was dancing, and I was back where I started. A dose of manufactured simplicity had the kid back in his truck, chasing everything and nothing, black ice air freshener blowing in the wind.