drive

Enrique has been asking me to teach him to drive. For years he’s been asking but I always make up an excuse not to. Excuses like; I don’t feel like it or I don’t want to or, no, I’m not going to teach you to drive – that sort of thing, but I recently had a change of heart. Shook me up a bit when I failed to run the shop and ran away to France. It’s not that I now have respect for what Enrique does because I don’t. I don’t think he does anything. I just think he doesn’t realize he’s fucking things up. Work, his life etc. I knew when I fucked it up and it hurt. Ignorance is bliss, so they say. I’m not ignorant, I’m the opposite, whatever that is, and now I seem to have empathy.

To be honest it’s the pitiful sight of him leaving for work. He always leaves before me so I see him go. He gets about on a small white lady’s bicycles with a basket on the front. It might even be a large child’s bike. It’s small and it’s absolutely fucking ridiculous. He wobbles a lot as he generally rides with one hand on the bars and one on his head to keep his hat from blowing away. I think it’s the fact that he doesn’t seem to hate it that’s the worst part of the whole sorry circus. If he’d hated it, hated getting on that bicycle, then I wouldn’t have offered to teach him to drive but he just doesn’t seem to mind and even Enrique deserves better than that so as he wobbled off this morning I shouted after him.

“Enrique!” I shouted just after he’d got his balance and he managed to stop by wobbling then putting a foot down and hopping three times before coming to rest against my hedge. He wears bicycle clips to stop his white trousers from getting oily.

“What?” He asked.

“Watch the fucking hedge, eh?” At home I am the boss.

“Sorry,” he replied and then lined himself up to get going again.

“You want a driving lesson? Tonight?”

Enrique turned back to me and narrowed his eyes. “Chu bull-shitting me?”

“No, really. Tonight. It’ll be cool.”

Enrique’s face that had been brown with suspicion melted into smile so broad it looked like he was taking the piss. He then fired two thumbs-up at me. He shouldn’t have done that. Letting go of the bars completely caused the bicycle to topple even though he tried to brace it between his legs. He stumbled a bit but the smile never left his face. “Okay, see you in a minute,” I told him and then went back inside.

When I got to work Enrique had a newspaper open and after I hung up my coat and rucksack he brought it to me. It was the previous night’s Jersey Evening Post. It was open near the back because that’s where the classifieds are. The cars for sale.

“I wan’ a Cadillac, man,” he said looking over the page.

“You’re not going to find a Cadillac,” he can’t still think we’re in America, surely to fuck? “Enrique, come on, you know we’re not in America?” He looked at me but didn’t agree or disagree. That’s what he does.

“A beeeg Cadillac, that’s what I wan’.” He held his hands apart in case I didn’t know what ‘big’ was.

“You won’t find one over here, I can tell you that,” I said scanning the page full of BMWs and Mazdas. “You want something like that,” I said plonking my finger on an advert for a Ford Fiesta the way I might plonk my finger on a horse’s name when we pick horses in the Grand National. We didn’t do that this year. “Fiesta!” I said, “that’s a party where you’re from.”

“Dat one,” Enrique said pointing to an advert for a Cadillac, a proper one, a Fleetwood. 1973.

“Heh, would you look at that!” I said picking up the paper. “You don’t want that though, won’t be able to get parts for it. Cost you a bloody fortune.”

“I get dat,” Enrique said. He was nodding and totally ignoring my knowledge of motor cars.

“Learn to drive first, eh?” I said, I was a bit annoyed.

“Tonigh’!”

“Yeah,” but I was already regretting it. Enrique then put his hands out and made brum-brum noises and shuffled back towards his office, standing up in an invisible car. He nearly crashed into the cases of cat food that were ready to be put out. I actually thought he was going to, that he was going to crash, and I nearly shouted out a warning but with a yank of the wheel and a screech of an idiot Columbian imitating car tyres he narrowly missed them. “Look at me, Paula!” He shouted and then crashed through his office door. Paula was still in England. I looked through the rest of the classifieds and nearly shit.

Why didn’t I read the paper on yesterday like a normal person? I thought when I saw it. A wave of melancholy hit me like drunk driver on New Year’s Eve. I wasn’t even going to phone but I thought, what the fuck, may as well.

The phone rang three times before it was answered by a sleepy sounding woman. “Your advert in yesterday’s J.E.P?”

“Yes?”

“Has it been sold? I suppose it has.”

“No, it’s still here.”

HOLY FUCKING JESUS, I thought.

“Can I come around?” I asked. She said I could. She gave me the address and I told Enrique I was going out and that he must hold the fort. He owed me for offering to teach him to drive.

10 minutes later I was ringing on her doorbell. The woman, who wasn’t as attractive as she’d sounded on the phone, ushered me through to a room that was neither a living room nor a kitchen.

“There it is, hardly been used,” she said pointing towards an empty table and I began to suspect she was mad. I laughed to show I could take a joke. The woman continued to point. I looked around the room.

“There’s what?”

“Well… the pine dining table.”

“Pine dining table?” I asked, not understanding.

“Yes?” She dragged out this questioning word.

“The advert said a ping ding-ding table.”

“A what?”

“You know… A ping ding-ding table. The advert said.” I mimed grasping the sides of a ping ding-ding table and pressing the buttons that operated the flippers which in turn would ping (I did the sound effects) the metal ball up to the bumpers which would go ding ding! As I was miming this I realised I’d possibly fucked up.

“A pinball machine?” She asked and then it fully dawned on me like waking up on New Year’s Day in hospital after being hit by a drunk driver the night before.

“Yes… a ping ding-ding table!” I still held out some faint hope she also had a ping ding-ding table, perhaps in her garage, and this was all some ghastly misunderstanding.

“They’re… they’re not even called that.” She said squinting at me.

“I suppose they’re not, now that I think about it,” I agreed with a sigh. I stood for a moment longer and then I nodded and left. But it is strange how your eyes can play tricks on you, showing you what you want to see.

Exterior: Quaisne Car Park

That’s pronounced ‘waynay’. It’s where the car park is. The car park I took Enrique to for his first ever driving lesson. We went in my wife’s C-Max because I can hardly drive the Land Rover and it wouldn’t be fair to teach somebody to drive it that death trap. If Enrique learnt to drive in my Land Rover then he’d think cars didn’t have brakes or go around corners. The C-Max is easier and we went to Quaisne because it got a massive empty car park. In the summer in the daytime it fills up because Quaisne is a beach but it’s not the summer. And it was in the evening. I still noticed two or three Scottish people sunbathing off in the distance.

Apart from having a beach Quaisne is also famous for woolly mammoth bones. In the olden days cavemen used to chase them off the cliffs. I told Enrique about this when we arrived because it’s an interesting fact.

“How they here? Sweem?” He asked but he was looking at all the buttons on the dashboard.

“No, ages ago Jersey used to be connected to mainland Europe.”

“Don’t remember,” said Enrique. “What’s dat?” He was pointing to the hazard light button.

“Hazard lights.” I pressed the button with the red triangle and it blinked with a red light.

“Okay,” Said Enrique. “Haze-ard lights.”

“I’m talking thousands of years ago. Hundreds of thousands maybe.”

“And that?”

“Heated windscreen.”

“And that?”

“I don’t know what that one is,” I told him honestly. There’s a button in the car that looks like you press it if you want the car to do a zig-zaggy skid.

“And that?”

“That’s the hazard lights. You don’t need any of these. You’ll pick all this up along. That’s the best way,” I told him. “Ever driven? At all?”

Enrique told me he hadn’t so I moved the car over to the far corner in case somebody else drove in and then I swapped seats with Enrique. Somewhere between him getting out of the passenger seat, walking around the car – I walked around the back and he walked around the front – and getting into the driver’s seat he had put on a pair of cheap looking cycling gloves.

“Okay, so you want to get your seat and mirrors in the right place,” I told him. He grasped the steering wheel hard and slowly turned to me. It was a bit creepy, like he was possessed, what with the slowly turning head and strange expression.

“Some say he drinks gasolina for breakfast and put motor oil on pancakes. All we know is Enrique is called Enrique The Stick!” Announced Enrique, his head then slowly turned to look out of the front again.

“Heh, that’s pretty good,” I said. “It’s the Stig.” The Stig is a racing driver on a television show about cars.

“The Stick.”

“The Stig.”

“Stick?” He was looking around the steering wheel.

“Yeah.”

“We go now?”

“Seat and mirrors, mah-fucker,” I told him. Took about five minutes to get the seat right. For a while he could only stop it at the most forward or most backward point but eventually he grasped the concept that letting go of the bar caused the seat to stop where it was, then he did the mirrors.

I explained the gears and pedals and brakes and indicators to him but he kept stalling. I told him to imagine there was an egg he didn’t want to break between his foot and the accelerator. He laughed at this. “I don’t h’understand heggs,” he laughed but it worked. Although Enrique doesn’t understand eggs he eventually got the car moving and did a lap of the car park. He did it in first gear and I grabbed the steering wheel a few times to straighten our progress. He did pretty good really. I didn’t really need to grab the wheel but I did to show I was in charge. He just needed to relax more because it was like the egg I’d mentioned earlier was on the seat and he was afraid to sit on it. His arse was off the seat the whole time and his face was practically against the windscreen as he pulled on the steering wheel rather than turning it. I told him to relax and the second lap was better. On our second lap he told me he had some dragon bones back in Bogotá. I told him to just concentrate on driving.

We pogoed for a bit and I was minded of when I first learnt to drive. When I’d made the car lurch forward my father had said, “Uh oh, must have filled it up with kangaroo juice!” I’d fucking hated that. You don’t joke when people are trying their best and it’s going wrong. Enrique stopped the car at the end of our second lap and it stalled.

“Uh-oh, must have filled it up with kangaroo juice!” I told him. “No, that was good though!” And I meant it as when I’d been explaining the pedals and gears it had struck me just how complicated driving was. I didn’t think he’d ever get the car to move but fair play to him, he had.

“Again! Again!” Cried Enrique bouncing in the seat. Lucky there wasn’t an egg on it. I told him that we’d had enough for one day but we’d definitely do it again, maybe at the weekend.

“I’d like dat,” said Enrique and he offered me his stupidly gloved hand which I shook then we changed seats.

Enrique was exhilarated and he babbled and laughed and told me of the experiences we had both experienced five minutes earlier.

“It change my life, man,” he told me. “I get dat Cadillac for sure. When I was chung-“

“Chung?”

“No h’old.”

“Young.”

“Yong. When I was yong-“

“Listen mate, you don’t fucking want that,” I told him. “I’m telling you.” I tellinged him.

“Si, si,” he said but he was humouring me. He wanted that car.

“Driving’s cool though.” I drove us home as casually and effortlessly as I could. I pressed buttons on the dashboard to demist the window that wasn’t misted. I guess I just wanted to show how much better at driving I was and always would be. And pressing the buttons on the dashboard made me feel impressive, like a pilot.

“Yes! Hey, chu ever get a bit…” Enrique searched for the word. I thought he was going to say ‘trapped’ or ‘stuck in a rut’ but he surprised me.”A bit rapey?” He really rolled the ‘r’ for rapey. He also turned his hands into claws and shook them.

“Rapey?”

“Yeah, you know. Just… rapey,” he did the Rs and the hands again. I looked at his hands and then to his face. His eyes were sparkling although he looked tired.

“Rapey?” Is that what he’s saying to me?

“I get that Cadillac… It would be perfect.”

“For raping?”

“I do anything in that.”

“Yeah, not raping though, right?”

“Anything.”

“Yeah, but not raping. Do you know what raping is?” I looked at Enrique again. He was nodding and lost in thought.

“I’m not teaching you to drive so you can go out… out raping,” I scolded. “Did you say raping?”

“I get that Caddy, man.”

We were home. I parked out front because Enrique lives in my garage but before getting out I needed to say something.

“Listen Enrique. You can’t rape people,” Enrique tried to interrupt me but I stopped him by saying “bah-bah-bah,” and holding up a finger until I had his full attention. “You just can’t rape people, I’m serious. And if you did – which you won’t – you especially don’t want to do it in a car like that, it’s too noticeable. It’s ridiculous.”

“H’okay, we see,” he said but he was wearing a mischievous expression, his eyebrows were going up and down.

“Did you say rape?” I asked. “Is that the right word?” But I couldn’t think of any other similar word he could have it confused with. Reap? Bake? He must’ve fucked up. “I think you’ve fucked up because rape is very very frowned upon over here.” He didn’t reply just did his eyebrows faster and by fuck it got me laughing even though I didn’t want to.

“Come on,” I told him. “Out!”

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