It dawned on me today that I’ve lost my edge. Not a huge rockfall or anything, more a barely perceptible crumbling around the cliff-face.
I was driving Mr6 to school this morning and I realised that I’m hesitating too long. Waiting for an unfeasibly large gap. Taking a deep breath as I cross intersections. Flinching when a car approaches too fast from the right.
After my little accident a few weeks ago, I got straight back on the horse. So to speak. In the hire car as soon as I could turn my neck enough to see. It hurt, but what else could I do?
I’ve never loved driving. I didn’t get my licence until I was 25 (late for Australia, where distances can be huge and a car represents freedom). I was a year younger than everyone in my year at school and they never seemed to mind driving me around. I particularly adored my friend W’s Fiat Bambino, bright red, with a striped sunroof. Like a Noddy car. We’d often leave the pub (orange juice, mum) and find it ‘parked’ on the footpath, courtesy of the local Hilarious People.
But I never wanted one.
When I moved to the Big Smoke, hotfooting it out of Fibrotown as soon as I was able, I relocated in the inner city and took to walking, buses and loafing about with gusto. It wasn’t until I went overseas for a few years and came back to Australia that I got up enough chutzpah to brave the city traffic. Ten lessons. Job done.
Then I didn’t drive. For years and years and years. I lived close to everything. I didn’t need to. Truth be told, I didn’t want to. And as the years went past, my dislike turned phobic.
I’d look with utter envy at people who just hopped in a car and drove off. I wanted to be one. When I got pregnant with Mr6, I realised I had to become one. By now I was living in the World’s Most Unwieldy Suburb. Close to town, but somehow so huge that it took ages just to walk across it. I needed to drive. I needed to be able to get my baby around. I needed to be able to visit my friends without the need for three buses and a packed lunch.
So, thanks to the unbelievable patience of my beautiful friend A-around-the-corner, who sat through untold hours of bunny hops and minor scares (“We take off at intersections with alacrity Allison, we do not dribble into them”), and a few lessons from Danny the driving instructor who specialised in Nervous Nellies (“You’re one of them, act like it”), I got to the point where I could get in the car and drive without shaking. Where the idea of driving home didn’t ruin every good night out I should have had.
My sister C laughed about how I was still ‘practising’ driving 10 years after I got my licence. “Don’t you just get to the point where it’s not practice anymore, it’s just driving?” she wondered aloud.
And one day I did. I even started to, on occasion, enjoy it.
I’m not back in my box, by any means. But I’m more cautious. To the point where I’m fitting right in around Fibrotown where the average driving age is 60+ and the average speed is about 40km/hour.
I’m sure it will come back. That edge, I mean. But for now, I feel like I’m back to practising. Just a bit.