Tonight the Streets Are Ours / Page 42

Page 42


He was the one who taught them to ride their bikes, for example. He was the one who taught them how to catch and throw a ball—really poorly, in both Roman’s and Arden’s cases, but he did try. When they went to the beach, he helped them build elaborate sand castles, and when they decided to get a dog (RIP, Spot), he was the one who took them to the animal shelter so they could choose one. He had tried very hard to instill in them a love of pro football, his passion. While it never stuck, he was always delighted for his kids to sit on the couch to watch a game with him, and he would regularly e-mail them articles about the teams he followed, whether or not they’d expressed any interest in reading them.

When he taught Arden to drive last year, he left nothing to chance, telling her everything he knew about how to handle different road situations she might someday find herself in. Together they logged almost double the number of required practice driving hours, and when he took her to her driving test, she passed with flying colors. Even the officer administering the test commented that he’d rarely seen drivers her age who were so confident. Her dad took this as a personal compliment and printed out official-looking certificates on thick cardstock, one for Arden saying WORLD’S BEST TEEN DRIVER and one for himself saying WORLD’S BEST DRIVING COACH. They both still had them hanging over their respective desks. Once she had her license, he even helped her purchase the Heart of Gold, matching her dollar for dollar.

He was a good dad.

Thanks to the Heart of Gold, Arden spent every day last summer driving. She’d drive as far and as often as she could, usually with Lindsey in the passenger seat, since Lindsey was game to go anywhere at any time. Often they would drive forty-five minutes to a crumbling independent cinema called the Glockenspiel, which showed artsy films, some of which were in French or Italian with subtitles, or which were old and in black and white. It’s not like they were such huge cinephiles. It was simply that the Glockenspiel was far away, and seeing a movie there was something to do.

Plus, they were obsessed with the Glockenspiel’s manager.

Her name was Veronica and she had bleached blond hair with an inch of obvious brunette roots. She always wore chunky platform shoes and her arms were covered in tattoos, and she cursed up a storm when she introduced any film (“Truffaut was an effing genius and Jules et Jim is one of his shittiest films, and yet for some effed reason it’s the only one anyone effing talks about when they talk about Truffaut”). She embodied the mandate, handed down by one of their English teachers, of knowing something about everything and everything about something.

For a while, Arden wanted to grow up to be someone like Veronica. Lindsey wanted to grow up to marry someone like Veronica.

Arden came up with a plan. Every time they went to the Glockenspiel, they would ask Veronica a question. Just one. Just one question would seem perfectly natural and conversational, and maybe with time, they would befriend Veronica, or, barring that, at least they would know what she would say when asked various questions, and then they could mimic her responses in future conversations with other people.

Arden and Lindsey would spend the entire car ride to the cinema brainstorming what to ask. While they were buying their tickets, they would ask their one question. And then they would spend the entire car ride home analyzing Veronica’s answer.

When Arden asked what the best song in the world was, and Veronica answered, “Smashing Pumpkins, ‘1979,’” the two girls found that song online and listened to it over and over as they drove back to Cumberland.

When Arden asked where she and Lindsey should apply to college, Veronica answered, “Don’t bother. A college education will be irrelevant in ten years anyway. You can teach yourselves anything you really want to know.” This prompted a vicious argument between Lindsey and Arden on the ride home, because Lindsey thought that was the best advice she’d ever been given about college applications, and Arden thought that you needed a college education if you ever wanted to do anything of substance with your life, and Lindsey’s crowning piece of evidence was “Well, Veronica says you’re wrong,” and how was Arden supposed to argue with that?

When Arden asked Veronica what her dreams were for the future, Veronica answered, “Being the manager at a movie theater.” Which wasn’t exactly Arden’s or Lindsey’s dream, but after talking it through, they decided it was wisdom about appreciating what you have when you have it, rather than wishing your life away.

Arden always had to do the asking. Lindsey was too intimidated.

When Arden asked Veronica how you knew when you were in love with somebody—because this was when she was thinking of saying it to Chris, but she wasn’t quite sure whether she meant it—Veronica leaned out of the ticket booth and said, “I have a question, too. Why do you guys always ask me such weird things when you come here?” When they didn’t say anything, Veronica said, “Never mind,” and she sold them their tickets.

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