I’m sitting in the back seat of my father’s turquoise Plymouth. I’ve just been expelled from school for a list of offences including (but not limited to) smoking pot, ditching classes, and vandalizing miscellaneous articles of lab equipment, textbooks, acoustic tiles, and an overhead projector.
He hasn’t said a word since we’ve been driving. There is piano music on the radio. Years later I will hear that melody again in the apartment of a friend, a serious girl with bubble-gum pink hair who wore kimonos and painted watercolour pictures of umbrellas and cats, and I would instantly recognize it.
I will discover the piece of music is Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1. But perhaps that is neither here nor there.
At that moment in time in my father’s car, the piano notes are falling through the pitch-black atmosphere like bright flakes of mid-winter snow. The notes are somehow creating a breach in time and space. They are throwing off some sort of weird emotional radioactivity. Things are changing, other possibilities taking shape. We are entering a dreamtime. My father is taking a long route home, not saying anything. There is no immediate judgement or condemnation.
We are navigating through a part of town I have never been before, making seemingly random turns down unfamiliar streets. I have a clear understanding that everything will be okay as long as we keep driving, keep trespassing into the unknown, never reaching our destination. To this day, I despise the moment of my arrival in airports, ferry docks, driveways. I am convinced that anything worthwhile in life happens en route. The journey is mystery, anticipation, and escape. Arrival means facing up to consequences.
Inexplicably, we pull into the parking lot of a doughnut shop. Without a word, my father leaves the car, and returns a few minutes later holding a brown bag and two paper cups. There is steam rising from the cups, and the sharp smell of coffee. The bag is stained with doughnut grease.
We sit in the car and drink hot, sweet coffee. We eat chocolate doughnuts and stare straight ahead at the rain-washed sky and the neon sign reflected in a large puddle. The piano notes have turned into a human voice. I have a vague recollection that the voice was warning about some vague threat or another, perhaps a coming storm, or indications of escalating world conflict.
For the moment, though, we are safe, and silent, and I am savouring the taste of chocolate on my tongue.