I slide out of the brisk evening air and into the passenger seat of his small old Honda, a car far too small for his football player frame. He sticks the key into the ignition, the engine coming to life. A layer of ice and snow occupies the windshield, he waits a few minutes for it to defrost. Faint clouds float from our mouths with each breath, remaining only for a few moments before fading away into the cold air of the car.
He pulls puts the car into reverse and pulls out of the lot, windshield still slightly foggy. They say that a reckless driver is safer than a scared driver, a sentiment I didn’t believe until the first time he drove me somewhere. He turns onto the main road, only half of one hand gracing the freezing surface of steering wheel. Yet, I still feel perfectly safe.
A CD plays in the background–EDM music that we both enjoy despite knowing that it is less artful than other genres. We have bits and pieces of a conversation, keeping it casual, but it feels more meaningful than typical small talk. We don’t force conversations; silence between us doesn’t have undertones of awkwardness like it does with other people I interact with. I catch glimpses of the outline of his face and his features highlighted by streetlamps and stoplights, but otherwise keep my gaze fixed on the passing scenery, though I’ve seen it hundreds of times. Part of me wonders if he’s stealing glances at me too, if he wonders what my face looks like in the fleeting sources of dim light.
We’re about halfway home when he pushes the eject button on the CD player, the radio immediately blaring a Top 100 song in response. He pulls the CD out of the slot and flips down the visor, revealing a holder housing ten or so plain CDs that he made himself. He slides the CD into an empty slot, pulls out a different one with no hesitation and slips it into the player. “No One” by Alicia Keys fills the small Honda.
We sing along, like we always do when music plays. He isn’t the best singer and he knows it, but never shies away from the high notes. I always turn and grin at him when he tries and fails to match the artist’s pitch and he always grins back and says, “Sorry, I’m done,” but he never stops and I’m glad he doesn’t.
We sing with Alicia Keys to the best of our abilities. It’s fun, like it always is–casual, no pressure. I don’t turn to him when his voice cracks on the high notes though, I keep my eyes on the houses that glide by, bullied into shyness by the thought that there could be significance behind his music choice.
“Beautiful Soul” by Jesse McCartney comes on next and we sing. I have to remind myself that this is normal, this is what we do. I smile at the familiarity, at the song that my friends and I loved back in middle school, but also at us in his small Honda singing as we cruise through the night.
He pulls into my driveway. I thank him for the ride. He smiles and says he’ll see me tomorrow. I watch as the pair of headlights veer around the corner and out of sight. I walk into my house, humming to myself because the songs are stuck in my head.