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My brother died when I was eight but my parents had just bought a car that day so when I got home they sat me down, bought me McDonald's, and told me that my brother was a Transformer from the planet Cybertron and he would be living as our car now, as a 2001 Chevrolet Prizm
And I loved that car. I mean, I knew it wasn't really a Transformer. I knew my brother had passed away. But it was the family car, I spent a lot of time in it, getting dropped off at school before my dad drove on to work. I learned to drive in that car.
And my parents always kept up with the façade. I realized my brother was dead within a few, uh, weeks of it happening and they must have known I caught on, but they kept it up. "Hop in your brother, Abby," my Dad would say every morning before we drove to church.
My school district clumped 9th graders in with the middle school, and I remember when I was fourteen and the boy who was taking me to the homecoming dance was a sophomore, so I got to go to the high school dance, with all the fifteen year olds. I was so proud of my maturity. But-
Nothing goes perfectly. Sophomore boy couldn't drive so my dad drove us and dropped us off and when I got out he honked and said, "That's your brother, saying he's so proud of you," my dad said with tears in his eyes. My brother was twelve when he passed. Never went to a dance.
I guess that was what my dad was thinking about. But all I could feel was rage that my dad would embarrass me like that in front of a high schooler! I didn't speak to him for weeks after that. Our relationship had always been strained. My father was ill at ease among women.
Actually the only thing we bonded over was when I was old enough to start driving lessons. He started me off driving laps around the church parking lot - in the Chevrolet Prizm, my brother, who by this time was my family's older car, so Dad wouldn't mind too much if I damaged it.
I don't remember PA law. I think you're meant to practice for 50 hours before you take the test. We never logged them. The summer before I turned 18 - my license was meant to be my 18th birthday present - we must have spent two hundred hours in that car in that parking lot.
We'd practice driving for hours, listening to Richard Pryor albums and bluegrass music, and then we'd have a picnic lunch sitting on the hood, talking. Our church parking lot looked over the whole valley where my town was. On a clear day you could see all the way to the cemetery.
So I didnt really want to take the test. I wanted to have my Dad in my car with me and my brother forever. It got so bad that once I turned eighteen and took the test I failed the first three times - I panicked when my Dad wasn't in there with me.
And my first time out on my own, as a real, proper adult, I was so scared I ran a stop sign - which was on a blind turn, so frankly I think the officer who pulled me over and gave me a ticket my first day on the road was a little cruel. But I digress.
I remember sitting there in the car convinced the officer was going to come take me to prison or something. He was twice my size, easy, with a slow gait and hands like bricks. I rolled down my window and he said, "This your car, little missy? This Chevy?" And I told him,
"He ain't Chevy," I said.
"He's my brother."
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