Sunday, 6 May 2012

Wish Upon a Road

I've had many learning experiences while driving over the patchwork quilts of St. John's roads. Two flat tires in one week taught me the fine art of the pothole slalom. A broken alternator taught me that tow truck dispatchers perceive time differently than most people. And, oddly enough, a hitchhiker who tried to pick me up taught me a little about what I want out of life.

It was the kind of fall night that makes forecasts redundant. Rain fell, fog rolled, and drizzle did its thing somewhere in between. My freshly second-hand car hurtled down Prince Phillip Drive, engine purring with the power of a soapbox racer. The road was clear as far as the eye could see, about fifty feet.

It was 3:30am, and I was heading home from poker at my friend's house. At the time, I would've called myself “single and looking,” but the reality was “single and wishing.” I'd spend my time playing cards with the boys, then wish that a girl would spontaneously walk out of the fog and into my life.

The light was red as I pulled up to a major intersection. Two headlights shone through the fog across from me. As I waited for the light to change, a figure interrupted the headlights. “What the hell is that person doing,” I thought. “Get off the road.” But she did no such thing. She kept walking. I didn't know she was walking toward me.

She crossed the intersection, opened the passenger door, and got in. For the first time, I realized that I drive with my doors unlocked.

“My friend told me I should go with you,” she said. “That doesn't sound like much of a friend,” I responded. “What?” she said, already slumping in the passenger seat.

She told me not to be afraid. Her slurred voice reinforced my fear that my freshly second-hand interior would end up covered in whatever made her drunk. I asked her where she lived. She said it was nearby, but she'd rather not go there, it's too boring. She wondered if I had somewhere she could stay instead.

She was dressed more modestly than she spoke, but her picture was worth a thousand of her words. She had tights, a fashionable coat, and hair that was several dances past did. She was a trophy that a frat boy would proudly mount on his headboard. And she had spontaneously walked out of the fog and into my car.

She told me her name, which I forget. I told her mine, which I imagine she forgets. She made a sound dangerously similar to nausea. I asked again about her home, and she said it was nearby, but reiterated that it was boring. She asked about my home, and I said it was nearby. I didn't say it was boring.

I pulled into my apartment's parking lot and stopped my car. “This is me,” I said, final yet transitional. “I live near here,” she said, telling me the street. “I could walk home later.”

At the time, I would've called myself “single and looking,” but I didn't understand what I was looking for. Unsatisfied with my dating, I imagined that impersonal conquest would make me happier. But here, in my car, outside my apartment, was a conquest. A conquest without any battle. Without any meaning. Without any dignity.

I started my car. I drove to the street she mentioned, and asked which house was hers. She told me. I let her out, and watched as she fumbled for her keys and let herself in. I turned on the interior light and breathed a sigh of relief at the clean seat.

Afterwards, I thought about this interaction. I wondered what kind of “friend” would encourage a drunk girl to walk through a foggy intersection and into a stranger's car. I wondered what conversation inspired her to step into the street, and if getting into my car was escape or revenge. But, most of all, I wondered why I'd wished for a catch without a chase.

Years later, I'm not the person I was on that fall night. This random girl's actions were just that, but understanding my own actions helped illuminate myself. Looking back, I see that I found inspiration even in the spontaneous events of St. John's roads. Maybe that's why I'll always be a writer.

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