Ames Middle School
Dear Garth Stein,
Two years ago, I was riding the bus to school next to Josie. We weren't really friends, but enjoyed chatting on the bus. Josie was one of the early bloomers, and I was one of the bloomers who-if as late to a social event as they are to bloom-would be subjected to dirty looks. The physical differences were an outward indication of our contrasting personalities. But when she asked me which boy I liked, I eagerly and naively confided in her.
Only recently thinking about why it is that I loved reading The Art of Racing in the Rain did I realize that it applied to my life in a way I hadn't expected.
'"It just doesn't seem fair," Eve said. "It was the other driver's fault."
"If it was anybody's fault," Denny said, "it was mine for being where I could get collected"
As your story unfolded, I began to recognize my part in a situation with consequences that initially seemed beyond my control. Josie shared my confidences with people I didn't want her to, embellished our interactions with lies, and pursued the boy I liked. My friends didn't believe her, but I couldn't let it be. I felt out of control.
Enzo attempts to escape the pain of Eve's death by tearing through the raw foliage in the park, and by snapping the squirrel that looked up too late. Although I didn't eviscerate Josie, I chimed in when other girls took a swipe at her. Every word I said was selfish. Reading about Enzo's guilt in satisfying his basest needs made me uncomfortable. I felt the bile in my stomach and tensed, ready to defend myself. There were no accusing onlookers, just me.
Enzo is a reflection of human nature; he can run rampant through the forest to clear his thoughts. Sometimes we wish we had the luxury of oblivion. I talked about Josie behind her back, but I felt no better. I simply placed blamed upon her.
Reading your book I realized that I should have thought before telling her which boy I liked. If I had taken the time to understand what kind of "driver" she was, I would have gotten out of the way. When I stopped being reactive I was able to be more optimistic and affable again. Your book helped me to be more mindful of what I say, and not let myself get caught up in casual gossip. I still slip up now and then, but not like I did with Josie. I am friends with people who make it easy to stay myself. I try to live my life according to Denny:
'Getting angry at another driver for a driving incident is pointless. You need to watch the drivers around you, understand their skill, confidence, aggression levels, and drive with them accordingly... Any problems that may occur have ultimately been caused by you because you are responsible for where you are and what you are doing there.'
You prompted me to observe the people around me. I've learned that girls' insecurities are more dangerous than the girls themselves. Josie told lies to boost her image, deflating mine. I was afraid people would believe her so I bad-mouthed her. Insecurity is like rain on a racetrack. Thanks to you, I learned to adjust to the situation, and handle difficulties more smoothly. I can anticipate the next turn so I don't have to scramble when it comes.