Failure to Escape

I needed escape from the car ride, and from my traveling companion. We arrived in Nashville, to my parents’ home around 7:30 pm on Christmas. The moment I walked through the door I felt I’d finally found some reprieve. I was on home base, and oddly enough, this was the place I could inch out some breathing room.

We arrived after a good five hours of driving through flooding rains, rains that almost merged the puddles in the road with the new bodies of water forming in fields around the road.

Driving up from New Orleans, we chose to take the more rural route of Natchez Trace. It ran in the middle of green and brown trees and open pastures. This was a road without the usual Cracker Barrels, Waffle Houses, and Jimmy Dean’s. If we did find one, it was closed. It was Christmas.

For a lot of the drive in Mississippi, we couldn’t see in front of us, not even a foot in front of us, because of what seemed like a well of water being dumped on top of our car as we drove. I was terrified. My heart beat fast and all of my attention was on the road, though I wasn’t the driver. I knew I couldn’t do much to change my fate, if the car was meant to slide and spin and roll off the road, then it would. The best I could do was trust the driver, an old acquaintance, a roommate from college 15 years ago.

About that.

This person, he’d been making me crazy, slowly. Not in a cute couply “oh you make me crazy” way. It was like a let-me-find-my-zen-buddha-master-and-use-my-jedi-mind to survive this kind of way. Whatever served as the gravitational pull in our youthful friendship was gone. From what I could surmise, I was the kink in the whole thing. He’d stayed the same, maybe a bit more inflexible with age, but he was who he’d always been. It was me. I’d grown out of the girl who was content just being talked at. I missed my playful friends.

This Noah’s arc moment, right around Tupelo, Mississippi was happening at the end of the trip. That morning he was annoyed at my desire to get going on the road early, I explained that I just like to give time for things, traffic, stops, adventures, whatever. My father raised me as an early riser roadtripper and this has gotten me in trouble. Friends have been annoyed at my rise at dawn, get on the road approach. I’m a morning person and delight at the landscape change in the rising sunlight. I relish driving on long stretches of open road. With my sister and brother-in-law, we game the whole route, taking alternate routes that others won’t. It’s all a science and an art. And I love it.

He was annoyed. But hours passed and we were both doing our best to enjoy the ride. I put on Serial, the podcast. He didn’t listen to podcasts but he liked it. We got through two episodes, until the waters arrived. Then I turned it off, so he could focus. But I was still uncomfortable.

“Can you go slower? I’m sorry…”

“I don’t think you can really see Mary, I think you need glasses. I noticed it earlier. It’s not that bad in front of us.” He didn’t slow down.

“Yea I did forget my glasses,” and I searched in my bag for glasses that I knew were not there, but just in case.

Miles later, in a surprised voice he said, “Did you feel that? I slid!”

“Yea.” I said, my exhaustion faint under my breath. “My concern was not visibility but hydroplaning, I don’t trust these scrawny tires or this car. I’ve hydroplaned before.”

“I have too.” He said. He didn’t slow down.

We arrived home a few hours later and I’d never been so relieved to see my parents. It was the miracle of Christmas that somehow spending a few days with this person made my relationship with my parents feel easy. He left for the rest of his holiday travels the next day.

In the following days, things with my mother got a little difficult. We worked it out, by talking it out. But it all felt so heavy, so thick, I really wanted to escape, again. I wanted to close the door to my little apartment in DC, 700 miles away, and be in an emotion-controlled environment.

My escape would come, I thought, on New Year’s Eve. The night before, I checked my email to figure out what time the flight was in the morning. I get that normal people don’t not know these things. After a few email inbox and frequent flyer account searches, I realized there was no flight. Looking at my browser history, I saw that I did go to the American Airlines website on December 9 and did enter personal information, but looking at my credit and bank statements, I never bought a ticket. My head fell on my computer and I let out a 2-minute cry.

I had to stay.

On New Year’s Eve, I started making an unplanned dinner, and then it turned into a thing, with table settings and salad plates and my parents and I had dinner together. Then I cleaned the kitchen and put on a happy movie that my mother had not seen (miraculously), and I felt like a good daughter for a straight five hours. They left to bring in the New Year with friends, and I considered doing the same, but I fell asleep in my jeans, and all my clothes. It was appropriate that I said goodbye to 2015 in slumber. It had been a trying year.

The rest of the days with my parents got better and better. They were more forgiving, I was less avoidant. I could tell they were happy.

The morning I was leaving, I got up earlier than I needed. After I dressed and zipped up my bags, I laid back down in my bed. I thought I was grumpy because it was early. Curled up, with the blackness of the early morning outside, it was unescapable. I was sad to go.