Gloria Harrison’s “Let’s See How Fast This Baby Will Go”

I’m a sucker for all road/car narratives, but Gloria Harrison’s is one of the best–if not the best–I’ve ever read. She combines an artful matter-of-factness with a masterful ability to interweave personal history with the multivocal, character-infused present. And she’ll have you hooked from her opening paragraph:

I wake up before 7:00 on the morning of Tuesday, June 4, 1996 and know three things instantly: I’m in labor, I have to return the car to that awful man, and I have to go buy another car. If I don’t, I won’t have any way to get myself to the hospital. I am twenty years old.

And my favorite moment, from the conclusion to the piece and in the criminally underused future tense:

I’m not aware of it, but I need something tangible in place after I’ve had this baby that is fighting his way out of my body. I’m not yet aware that after he leaves, I’ll transfer all of my maternal love onto this car. That this car will literally help me run away from all of the shit I’ve been through and am going through. I don’t know it yet, but the freedom this car will bring me will help put 130,000 miles of distance between the me that I’ve been and the me that I will become.

You can also hear her read this piece in Act 3 of This American Life‘s May 2013 episode, “Hit the Road.”


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