I quickly glanced over each shoulder. The cars on either side weren’t moving, it was what they used to call “four lanes of parking lot.” The grey faces behind the dusty windows in the lanes next to me – only a few feet from me – were sticky-looking and vacant. The heads moved slightly, their jaws chomping away at unheard conversation. I avoided looking as best I could, avoided even moving for fear of attracting attention.
This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening. I knew it was, it was undeniable. The truth of the situation was bare-naked, in my hands. Outside the trees were green, the leaves at their height of life in mid-June, unaware of what was happening around them. Jealous and angry, at them, I checked the dashboard; I wasn’t overheating yet, but likely would be soon. I was surprised it hadn’t already. What then, what then, what then what then whatthen whatthen whathen whathen whethen?
I needed a moment to re-group; I wasn’t as strong as other men, or women I’d known, but I had my wits.
I allowed myself the luxury of laying my head back, very slowly, and reminiscing. I thought back to my friends, work friends, who I’d spent a – recently? – regular afternoon with. Those hours (in reality only an hour and a half) had been a lot more fun than I’d predicted. Just a few beers really. But memory is often like that, better than reality. I didn’t dare think back to reality. Isn’t it strange how you can spend the largest part of your day – work days, so many days – with people you seemingly don’t know, don’t get a glimpse of their real lives, just start to like them, and then have this happen?
The memory passed. I cleared my head as best I could, again moving as little as possible. I wanted to shake my head, get the panic out, but I didn’t dare. They – those silent and trapped around me – were attracted to movement, I knew that. I’d heard stories about others in situations like this, very much like this, but on different roads, different towns. There were two options. The first was a fight I wasn’t likely to win outright, not without an undeniable pain and remorse and loss of the “before” times. The second was the unthinkable.
I could physically go no further, and I was surrounded. This was it. And I was going to go out fighting. Or as close to fighting as I could.
I unscrewed the Nalgene lid and dumped its remaining water out on the passenger-seat floor, arm straight out, defiant. A cold-comfort, large-mouth bottle, a gift from my brother before Nalgene had been cool, before BPA’s, before stainless steel canteens. I knew that 32 ounces would not be enough. But I had my wits.
FUCKING CUBS, FUCKING, FUCKING CUBS. Fucking. Cubs. Traffic.
OK. Here goes.