"Guess what? Eleanor’s driving today."
Mom didn't believe him but he had me pull my learner's permit from my purse. I got behind the wheel and started the car while he sat next to me with Mom stuck next to the passenger door. Adroitly I backed out of the driveway without stalling to her amazement and muttered protests. Once on the street her confidence in me grew and when I pulled up to school the girls nearby again stared in amazement as I hopped out and he took over and drove Mom to work.
Soon afterwards I went with him, chaperoned by Mom, for my driver's test,
passed and was issued a California driver's license with standard issue picture
showing my dark face, slanted eyes and big lips. Still I treasured it, my
certificate of becoming an adult of sorts. My family status rose significantly.
Dad let me drive the Buick to run errands.
Mom, however, worried about, "the boy next door", as she called
him and started warning again about pregnancy and being boy crazy. Dad referred
to him as, "white devil", "yáng guǐzi" in Mandarin or as
"guǐlǎo", in Cantonese if on a second bottle of plum wine.
Until getting my license we were just neighbors. Soon after teaching me to
drive he came by on a Saturday morning when Dad was on one of his weekend
absences and asked me to drive to San Francisco. Mom protested but with
insouciance I got in the car, backed out of the driveway with him next to me
and drove away, our unofficial announcement he was my boyfriend.
I drove the Bay Shore Freeway, (aka US 101 or "Bloody Bay Shore" without a divider back then), to San Francisco where he had me park at the base of a steep hill. I had sweaty palms from driving the freeway and then in the city's confusing streets. He didn't let me rest. He told to drive up and stop at the crest.
After many attempts with his prodding I succeeded in not stalling starting up it and other steep hills. By the end of the day I could stay stopped on a steep crest and make the light when it turned green without killing the engine. While my legs ached, were even shaky, I was proud.