Rules of the Road
by N. Hess
It’s dark out.
It might rain.
There are deer on the road.
Every time I sat in the driver’s seat, my mother’s voice echoed in my brain. Each time I clicked the seat belt shut, her old litany of excuses snapped in place, too. Reasons why it wouldn’t be safe for me to drive. Good heavens, there are deer on that road! (Which would never just cause a dent in the car—always imminent death, of course.)
Welcome to Pennsylvania, where there are deer everywhere, every night. Yet most people go about their business, perhaps driving a little more cautiously in areas where deer are known to congregate, but driving nonetheless.
But not me. I stayed “safe” by not driving. Or if I really had to go somewhere, my mother drove me. (Clearly, she was the magical accident repellent that would keep me unharmed.)
I didn’t know then that it wasn’t about safety or my driving skills—it was about control. All I knew was that in high school and college, I was allowed to drive a grand total of 11 times. When I moved away after graduation, I was equal parts longing and terrified to drive myself anywhere.
Driving to the grocery store in my new town, I had to give myself pep talks. Talk myself out of thinking I was going to die every time I drove somewhere. Remind myself that if I could just get to the supermarket, I’d be rewarded with mac and cheese.
Those two miles each way to the store felt like an eternity for over a year. But each journey yielded two miles’ more experience than before. It adds up over time, and it gave me a voice. A voice that’s louder than hers.
To this day, I’ve never hit a deer.
PHOTO: “Deer crossing” by adrenalinpura, used by permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Stephen King once said, “The only requirement [to be a writer]…is the ability to remember every scar.” My driving-related scars inspired this story. Although those wounds don’t cut as deeply these days, they still produce little twinges and pinches sometimes when I’m stuck in a traffic jam or driving down a lonely road at night. I keep telling myself that’s what healing feels like.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: N. Hess writes twisted fiction. She lurks in the Philadelphia suburbs and is inspired by all things dark and mysterious.
AUTHOR PHOTO: N. Hess, daydreaming about a future in which self-driving cars will be the norm.