After every funeral, we play car tag. Lift keys from our front hallways, still dressed in black skirts and skinny ties, pair into the driver and passenger seats of our parent’s cars, some of us holding memorial handouts, some of us a little drunk from the flask passed around the funeral home bathroom.
We snake curves along the coast, speed away from the gridded roads of our small town, stop at 7-11 for slurpees we stud with stolen rum, ask the man collecting change to buy us a pack of Marlboros which we exhale out wide-open windows, the plumes of smoke twinning our exhausts.
We don’t talk about the accidents. We listen to mixed CDs stashed underneath our seats instead, hide in invisible shadows of night-lit alleys and wait for someone’s headlights to slice the sides of our cars.
Some of us creep through the back streets, our engines a hum above our whispers, our hearts thudding at the possibility of getting spotted. Some of us park and make-out, our bare legs stuttering across leather seats, our hands and feet tangled in dangling belts. Some of us cry, unsure if loss is ever exhaustive.
And some of us drive—some of us always drive.
We know it’s reckless, this addiction to the high-pitched squeal of tires cutting corners. The adrenaline that follows the reverberation of acceleration. The unmistakable sound of locked brakes and the silence that follows. We wait out those deafening seconds with eyes closed, wait until the sound of two vehicles accordioning together comes.
And when headlights paint the sides of our cars, when we’ve been found and tagged, we stomp on our gas pedals, chase brake lights ahead of us until we tap the other car’s bumper or lose sight of the ruby red glow around a corner, down a hill, into the invisible distance.
We stay and play until the black blanket of night melts into a dusky indigo. Until our rum-studded slurpees are long gone, our Marlboros stubbed out on the soles of our funeral shoes, and our gas tanks sputter in surrender. We will feed this legacy, we will fight this feeling of euphoria, right down to our last breath, because nobody wants to be it in the morning.
“Car Tag Kids” was originally published in Hobart, May, 2020