Veruca Salt the Eighth Grader takes a little longer to get out of the car each day as I pull up outside the doors of Justin Bieber Junior High.
She takes her jacket off and throws it in the backseat before deciding, that no, she will wear it after all. She checks her eye makeup again in the mirror. She inspects the contents of her backpack. She primps and stalls, partly in hopes that the line will move forward a little bit, saving her the extra five or six steps, but mostly because she has begun to think of it as a competition.
I make the mistake one morning of saying "Could you be any slower?"
You didn't have to be a mind reader to see the answer in her eyes. She realized in that instant that she had only been going through the motions up to that point. She could be slower. She could turn in a performance that would bring time to a fucking standstill.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't afraid. The girl does not take challenges lightly. And pointless challenges? They are her stock in trade.
And so, to a long list of acting credits that include the starring role in the long-running family drama The Freakishly Self-Composed 14-Year-old Who Can Do Her Mother's Voice on the Telephone Well Enough to Trick Her Father, she has added Morning Car Theater.
The outcome is a foregone conclusion. She's bringing her A-game. Her performance will run on a few minutes longer every day until she has broken me. She will make me beg. Please. Get. Out. Of. The. Car.
But I'm not going down without a fight. I will make every extra minute in the car a minute of teenager suffering.
I've got a few performances under my belt as the Mother With Way Too Many Lines. Today I open with the soliloquy from Every Awful Inspirational Speech Ever Delivered by a Parent in a Supporting Role:
Me: I know it's scary, Wildcat, but you've got to get out of this car, walk through those doors and seize the day! Make new friends, show them what you've got, go for it, just remember who you are. What's really important is what's inside, be yourself, be the very best you can be, and don't forget to follow your dreams. Your father and I are so very, very proud of you, no matter what happens. Win or lose. Even in the event of a tie. Did I say 'be yourself'? Because that's key. Also, please. Just. Get. Out. Of. The. Car.
And she does. But she's laughing. She knows she has already won.
Photo: Veruca Salt is The Girl Who Would Not Get Out of the Car. Suburban Kamikaze is The Mother Who Would Not Stop Talking; The drama that has the critics saying "I thought she would never get out of the car!" - Roger Ebert. "I thought she would never stop talking!" - David Denby