I was driving home from Indiana last weekend with my boyfriend’s mom when suddenly, two vehicles ahead, a car veered a sharp right and zoomed off the road.
It plowed down the ditch, up the ditch and across a plain of grass until it smashed into a tree.
In just seconds, the car had reached its final destination, vastly different than where it had set out to go that morning. Though the car was stopped, the wheels were still spinning.
A young woman, a middle-aged man–they jumped out of their vehicles and sprinted through the ditch and across the grass. They tried to yank open the car door, but it was locked. They pounded on the windows, again and again, fists hitting glass hopelessly.
No one answered, but the tires kept circling, around and around and around.
It’s late on a rainy Monday night, and I should be going to bed.
Instead, my mind is living in that fantastical (and absolutely crazy) third-eye place, where it narrates my thoughts as though I were writing them. My thinking is floating text in my head, begging to hit paper.
This happens when I write all day. When all day I think in terms of writing.
This happens when I have a lot of things to figure out.
I had the chance to meet and grab coffee with two supporters of the theatre where I work the day after I got back from my weekend trip. He was an outspoken man, a bulldog with a big heart who apologized upfront for his biting humor. She was spirited, albeit gentle. She sat across from me modeling a bold bandana, a sweet smile and an honest opinion–given only if you asked.
30 minutes in, she told me that she had cancer.
Like a switch going off, I abruptly noticed him. I noticed him watching her. I noticed how he listened–really listened. How he never interrupted. How he smiled when she smiled. I noticed the shimmer in his eyes when I said, “I’ll be thinking of you.”
And the way he–not her–replied to me, so simply, softly, “Thank you.”
Have sincerer words ever been spoken?
I am a 20-something living a very different life than my parents, my grandparents or their parents before them. I am thousands of miles from my ancestral roots, my family’s homestead, my prairie upbringing. Presumably many of you can relate.
The world keeps getting bigger, the more I see of it, yet despite knowing firsthand that there are thousand of paths to choose from–all that end the same–I find I’m still terrified at the multitude of mistakes that await me. Of the pain down the path.
I see the stopped car and those wheels spinning, spinning, spinning–so tragically, so pointlessly. I see the illness behind the bandana and the raw heartache of just one smile and just one ‘thank you’.
I see this all, and I want to freeze the clock, here, on this rainy, rather unremarkable (and completely safe) Monday night.
Life is fragile. I imagine that if I can be taught this firsthand twice in 24 hours, each of us will learn this and relearn this thousands and millions of times in our lives, God willing.
When I grow up, whenever that dreaded day might arrive, I hope I can face the reality of life’s precariousness with bravery. I hope I can look at the future, its big unknowns, its unavoidable pitfalls and inevitable heartbreaks, and rise to meet it, regardless.
Tonight, though, spring rain falls, and my mind like wheels spins.
Tonight, I give myself a little grace. It’s Monday, after all. l’ll let myself soak in these memories and try to make sense of these moments.
I’ll stand still in this one spot, as though standing in a rain puddle during a thunderstorm, watching the thousands of droplets around me, fall.
I’ll stand here and now and wait to see if tomorrow I choose otherwise.