“Wait, what kind of car do you drive?”
She is my cousin’s little girl. Blond, California-born and raised, nearly as tall as I am, and presently obsessed with cars. We are walking through downtown Seattle together. I’ve been back from Cambodia for less than a week.
“A 2002 KIA Spectra,” I reply, “with power locks.”
This last bit I say with just a little bit too much gusto, and she laughs. Immediately, I confess to the lie.
“It doesn’t have power locks.”
“My parents’ car is older than I am,” she says, disdainfully. She is ten. Her parents’ car is twelve years old.
“When I was your age, do you know what my mom drove?” I ask.
“It was a rusted out hatchback. There were holes in the floor that were so big, you could see the street underneath you as you drove.”
“Oh,” she says.
“It was held together with duct tape,” I say.
She gives me a look that says Bullshit, even though I’m certain that word isn’t in her vernacular.
“I’m not kidding,” I continue. “Then my brother took tape and spelled out ‘WHO’S YO’ DADDY?’ on the hood.”
This sends her, along with her mother and her little sister (who’ve been following along with the conversation) into a fit of giggles.
“Wait, did he really?” her mother asks.
The little one chimes in now.
“Did you get mad? That Edward did that?”
I shake my head.
“No,” I say. “Because he was embarrassed, too, you know? And that was just how he was dealing with it.”
I look over at the older one. I wonder if she gets the point I’m trying to make. After that, she does seem to talk about cars a little less.
Later, Rand would tell me that I was teaching her the wrong lesson.
“You shouldn’t tell her you had it worse than she does,” he says. “You need to tell her that stuff like that isn’t important, period.”
“Right,” I say. “Right.”
Next time, I’ll tell her.