“They gave your car away today.”
I had just gotten out of my therapy session where I talked non-stop for a solid hour—words, words, words—lovely, clanging, rhyming, sarcastic, bitter, sardonic, wondrous words. TD had been running errands around town while I purged every thought in my head to Carol during my free-talking hour of therapy, so when I met TD in the lobby after my session I was quite happy and frankly not all that ready to give up my voice. She had a look, but waited until we were outside before saying anything.
“They gave your car away today.”
She was talking about my company car. I had three cars last year: a Ford Escape that TD used mainly for lawn maintenance and moving, a Jeep Wrangler I bought TD for Christmas, and the company car, a 2016 Chevy Equinox. She was shiny and brand new when I got her and came with a gas card and all the perks. I slapped a huge GPS to the windshield and took off first day and there was no stopping me. We cruised through the winding hills of Westfield listening to music so loud the windows vibrated. I drove it through country farm land through Elkin and Dobson, searching for addresses, backing up, making U-turns, speeding along lone roads next to orange hay fields, eating my meals and talking on the phone, balancing coffee on my knee, honking, slamming on brakes, cutting across fields, parked in the Burger King parking lot taking naps, holding my arm out the window to feel the freedom of wind as I sped through tiny towns with no traffic lights and while stopped for geese crossing the road in the middle of nothing I could take that one moment to look around and notice a dilapidated mailbox or a broken down store with its windows boarded and its door nailed closed and wonder what happened to the people who owned it and what happened to the people that used to shop there. The best part were the patients who were watching for me to pull in—patients isolated in desolated areas of country who would not see another living person except me for the entire week—and the way the curtains would sweep shut and the front door would fly open and they’d come out to greet me and walk me in. “I’ve been watching for your car all day!”
People were always asking me how I could stand to do so much driving. I had one of the largest territories in our company and I was probably mapping about 2,000 miles a month. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. My fellow nurses could see four patients in the same neighborhood in the time it took me to see two, but it didn’t matter. The drive was part of the appeal. I would’ve driven a thousand miles to see each and every one of those patients.
“They gave your car away today.”
When my foot went bad, I had to park the car at the office. I put it in a spot that it could be seen from Stratford Road when we drove by the building. For a long time, my CDs and GPS and umbrella were in there. It was my car. It was in the same spot and had my stuff in it and I still had the keys and the gas card and it was mine. A few days ago my boss called and asked for the keys and gas card. I figured this was part of some policy that says if your employee is not driving the company car then these items must be surrendered until said employee can take possession of the car. TD dropped these things by the office while I was in therapy.
“They gave your soul away today.”
I had no words. I didn’t want to know who they gave it to. I didn’t want to know anything about the car, about the world, about politics, about gas prices or about current events. I got into the car and assumed the total surrender pose and didn’t pay attention to where we were going or how we were getting there. It didn’t matter anyway. I wasn’t an active participant in my own life. I couldn’t drive myself anywhere. I went where people took me. I went along for the ride. I went with people who were going places. I tagged along. I was baggage. I was something that had to be delivered to a destination, an appointment. Otherwise, I was a wandering, soulless, directionless corpse looking for Things To Do at home—roaming from room to room, sitting on the porch, walking through the living room, adjusting blinds, pouring water in a dog dish, staring at pictures on the refrigerator, trying to recognize my face in the bathroom mirror, replacing an empty paper towel roll.
“They gave your purpose away today.”
Sometimes a patient’s face will appear before me, usually when I’m feeling sorry for myself, to remind me of something or to re-teach me a lesson I learned back when I was an actual living, breathing tax-payer who had things to do and important things to say. Her name was Carol. She was a pretty twenty-year-old brought into Detox one night after a traffic accident. She had been deemed too intoxicated to be taken straight to jail and was brought to us, unable to answer questions or sign consents. I poured her into a cot and kept a cuff on her all night. Her blood pressure was sky high and I was pretty impressed, given her age, that she was so symptomatic. Before the night was over, I ended up having to get an IV and hang fluids and dose her with every single bit of Librium I had. She was spewing forth from both ends at the same time and I was wearing her innards all over my uniform. I changed scrubs twice and spent most of the night trying to keep her off her back, checking her vitals, wiping her face with a cold rag, changing her gown, cleaning up vomit and feces, giving meds, hanging fluids, changing sheets and pillow cases, answering questions about God and why her mother was such a bitch. The next day she remembered nothing of the night before. She had no hang-over, was laughing and socializing with the group, and itching to leave. After the doctor medically cleared her for discharge, police arrived and arrested her on two counts of vehicular manslaughter. The evening before, she had killed two children riding their bikes across the intersection she had plowed through against the light.
I will never forget the look on her face when they told her…that shock, that disbelief. She didn’t have words either, but if she had spoken, dollars to donuts she would’ve said, “Is this my life? Is this my fucking life?”
There are some fates worse than death.
Sometimes you have to live.
These are the words I will not say. These and all the other words that mean nothing and that mean more than I can stand. If fate has decided to roll itself out before me like pages on a calendar, one day after the next, each day the same as the last, spent haunting this house, on this street, winding towards the end of my life in a slow-motion blur of non-descript, mundane events, do I have to accept it? Do I have to sit idly by and let life just happen to me without a fight? Do I let the depression take over and choke me to death or do I let anger keep me throbbing with madness? At least anger is feeling! It’s alive and alert and it can be very entertaining. Still, it boils down to me, sitting at this table, in this kitchen, smoking this endless cigarette, not knowing where to go or what to do, not knowing how I’d get there even if there was a way, each second giving way to the next and the next without care or apology…ticking away like a prison sentence.