"Really? You're gonna let me change gears?" he asked. "But I don't know how."
"I'll tell you which gear and when. Maybe I'll let you steer a little, too, If you want."
His face told me that I was now more than his older brother. I was Santa Claus, and perhaps superhuman. Then his nervousness overtook him, as it always did. "But what if we get in an accident?" he said.
"Jesus, would you relax? We won't get in an accident. I'll be in control. I'm trying to offer you some fun here. Don't be such a suck."
"I'm not being a suck. I just don't wanna get in trouble."
"That's why you're a suck. We're supposed to get in trouble sometimes. I'm your big brother. I'm supposed to teach you this kind of stuff. Relax, for chrissake."
With Dad's car I'd tried to become the older brother I'd always wanted, the one who taught his kid brother how to smoke, light a bottle rocket, and drive a stick-shift. Sharing the car with Rory quickly built that kind of trust and friendship between us. We started to become real brothers there.
After that, Rory always wanted a lift somewhere. This time, when he asked at dinner for a ride, my mother informed him that the Rock King would be on foot for a while.
"Who's the Rock King?" Rory asked.
My father pointed his fork at me but didn't explain my new title.
Rory found it hilarious. "Ryan is the Rock King," he sang, "king of the rocks, the one who rocks out on top!" He wanked on an air guitar, repeating my new name, and made pouty, guitar-solo faces.
From Cockeyed: A Memoir by Ryan Knighton, pages 22-35. Copyright Ryan Knighton. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Public Affairs.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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