It only ever happens when I am alone, and only when I’m driving:
It’s dark. That eight pm in the dead of winter dark where you feel tired for no reason. That dark where the lights from every other oncoming car could come crashing through your windshield at any moment if you didn’t hold your eyes open and your wrists rigid at the steering wheel. That dark where the radio is on—or is it?—but there’s no sound you can make out other than the mellow drumming of your thoughts.
That dark where even the digital clock on your dash goes tic, tic, tic.
No matter where you are, all you see for miles and miles is stretching, winding road and trees that stick out like stray hairs on a bald, black landscape. And until you reach the outskirts of a city or even the heart of a busy, bustling downtown, you only see trees and banks of blustered, abused, dirty snow. So you wake up. You wake up and take note of people walking the streets in their black coats and pretty hats and fake conversations with dogs on leashes and kids with bells. You see windows and storefronts and doors with wreathes. You see candles and flames flickering with warm invitations.
But stay in your car. Keep driving. Keep moving onward.
Like ice flow. Like slow, slow ice pushing through water.
It only happens when I am alone.
It goes like this:
A song on the radio, a CD, in my head. A song plays somewhere inside the car.
It’s “Hometown Glory” by Adele, it’s “Dancing” by Elisa, it’s “The Freshman” by the Verve Pipe. It’s “Hallelujah,” by Jeff Buckley.
Somehow, you were fine one minute. You were driving and smiling and watching for deer and trees and snowflakes. You were listening to nothing and dancing in your mind and waiting for your car to stop crawling forward and just park already. You were sore and aching, and sitting too long.
One minute you were good, dandy.
Somehow, you’re crying.
You’re listening to The Temper Trap and can’t begin to imagine a time in your life when you were this overwhelmed with unhappiness. You’re watching lights burnout in the rearview mirror while your tears rush out to the rhythm of “How to Save a Life.”
You don’t need to pullover. For God’s sake, it’s not that bad.
But should you?
There’s no one else here but you. And that makes it okay.
That makes it okay to surrender. To listen to song around you and release. To let go, to run, to bawl, to relinquish control and find the one moment when the lyrics match perfectly with the tic, tic, tic of the green digital numbers on the dash.
One minute, you’re fine.
The next, you’re alone.
And then, you’ve grown-up.
You’ve lost more of your time, your friendships, your success, your experience, your memories.
For a moment, it’s remarkable.
For an instant, it’s unbearable.
For a lifetime, it’s existence.