I don’t Netflix and I don’t chill. I live my life in the first person and I take my stories through my own eyeballs so I can turn around and tell them to you. So here is a little story for you, about a girl I happen to know. You can call her a woman, if you like and if it suits your politics. She calls herself a girl.
Once upon a time, this girl was a pilot. She was still a teenager when she soared off into the New Mexico sky on her own for the first time. When she landed, her instructor cut off the tail of her dress shirt. This is a thing, if you did not know. She was tall and blonde and very serious. She grew up to own a few businesses and she became very much her own girl. She was independent. And if she did not always have things her own way, at least she always had the sky waiting for her.
This girl met a very bad man. He was bad in the way that men in the movies are bad, that violent, intemperate, dramatic way. And he was also bad in the tiresome little ways that men in real life are bad, the forgetting and the wandering and the way he was too slippery to pin down, like oyster meat under your fork or tongue. And one day she woke up to find herself fuzzy-headed in the hospital, bolted together inside and out, very far from home, stuck with this bad man like Belle in the castle of the Beast.
She wanted to fly home, but there was no way to fly home. There was no more way to fly at all. She was broken in ways that might always keep her from flying. I am sure she thought about giving up. But she put her head down and she worked on unbreaking herself. They say you cannot unbreak yourself, the same way you cannot un-ring a bell. But she unbroke herself.
“If I cannot fly,” she said, “I will race.”
“You know, if it’s not fun anymore, you could just quit.”
I stared at my father as he spoke these words, confused beyond belief. He had just picked me up from a brutal three-a-day football practice in the heat of the Ohio summer. As I sat there in the passenger seat of his piano black Infiniti J30, baking in the leather interior, I couldn’t begin to comprehend why he would tell me it was okay to quit.
Sure, I’d been complaining I was in danger of being passed over for a starting wide receiver spot, for which I’d been fighting for nearly three years. And yes, the practices were hard. We didn’t know much about things like “hydration” or “concussions” in the mid-’90s. We got water breaks about once an hour. If you got your bell rung, you just sat out a play and jumped back in. Sitting out too long meant that somebody else got your reps. But I never, ever considered quitting the team. Those guys were my teammates. My brothers. I could never quit on them. Quitting was for losers.
So as I stared at him, I decided right then and there that I wasn’t a quitter. Not only that, I decided that I would never become one. And that, my friends, is why I’m racing at Watkins Glen this weekend.
How many days until I get to race again?
I asked myself that question over and over again this winter. After my first experience running with the fledgling American Endurance Racing organization last fall, I spent many long, snowy winter weeks in Kentucky, counting the days until this season’s debut race at New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Lightning Raceway.
The writer has an obligation to put the reader in his shoes, to vividly describe his reality in a way that is descriptive enough to allow the reader to vicariously share his experiences. It is likely, dear reader, that I shall fail you today in my attempt to share my experience from this past weekend, but let me attempt by starting with this:
Watkins Glen is perilously wondrous.