Constriction with a Conscience

“Oh come on now, don’t do this to me.” No matter how many times or how many ways I sit down in grandpa’s old pickup truck, the damned seat-belt never wants to cooperate with me. I pull it slow, I pull it fast, it doesn’t matter. Heck, it doesn’t even matter -which- seat I sit in. The things are stubborn. Like tired old asses, the belts won’t progress a step forward or backward, they just want me to stay exactly where I am. They worsened over time, but in intervals.

The first time it came to my attention was when I dropped a nice, thick wad of hubba-bubba bubble gum straight into the buckle. I must have been about eight. Mum let me go on holiday with Grandpa for a week at Disney, but now it was time to go home. He spent two hours trying to get all the melted goop out of the button. It was a hot day and my sunburned skin stuck to the leather seats like syrup on a pancake. If it wasn’t for Grandpa putting on all those funny voices he used to do, I would have been totally miserable.

The second interval was my first day at High School (which I almost missed). Throughout the whole car-ride, I blabbered on about all the boyfriends I am bound to have over the next four years of my life. Grandpa kept shaking his head and telling me to put my studies before all that jazz. Once at the drop-off point, try as I might, I couldn’t get the belt to budge. “Oh for…” almost heard Grandpa swear that day, but I didn’t. The seat-belt confined me to my seat, wrinkling the brand-new clothes I bought two weeks ago for this day only. Eventually, I was released. Without even a fraction of a glance backward, I fled the scene in embarrassment, hoping nobody saw the struggle.

University-bound, was I, when the third hassle came. Mum’s busy working, and Grandpa’s truck is big enough to carry my futon in the back of it. I’m closer to him than anyone else in my family anyway, so I didn’t feel any misery from the lack of parent. “Think you’ll be coming back for Spring Break?” Grandpa asked. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of, “I just want to party!” Even if he laughed it off then, I wish I’d gone back for Spring Break after all. When we rolled up to my new dorms, I tried to unclip my seat-belt: it simply wouldn’t give out. The nerve and attitude of this damn contraption could put an angst-ridden pre-teen to shame. “You’ll have to take your classes in the car, I’m afraid.” Grandpa said after a good thirty minutes of trying to unjam the mechanics in the ill-mannered belt. Frustrated, I huffed without amusement.

Here I am now, at the fourth dilemma. No Grandpa this time, just me and the truck. Shortly after Spring Break his heart seized, then poof, out like a wick on a windy evening with a wide-open window. I stopped showing up to class; I stopped talking to mum; I stopped giving a damn. All I have left of Grandpa is a few pictures and this shabby pick-up. My intentions this evening -was- to drive out to the pier and drink to forget him, but the damn seat-belt won’t let me go. I tug and I pull, but it only tightens its embrace around me. As I scream out in grief and curse the way I never heard Grandpa curse, the belt pulls me in closer to the leather seats, where his smell still lingers.

Once calm, I decide against my evening of irresponsible intoxication and drive to my mum’s house. As I reached for the seat-belt, it clicked open without even the glimmer of a bother. “Thanks Grandpa.” I weep.

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