Monday, September 20, 2010

The Ultimate Breakdown

My husband asked me to never speak of the breakdown again. After all, he is a proud and private man. In response, I patted his shoulder and promised that I would never speak of it to anyone. And then, as soon as he left the room, I immediately flipped open my laptop, resurrected my long ago abandoned blog, wrote down all the details and am now posting them for everyone to read. Indeed, I vowed to never speak of the breakdown. Which is why I was forced to write about it instead.

But beyond the obvious satisfaction that comes from exposing a person’s most vulnerable secrets, there is a greater purpose for conveying this sorry Breakdown tale. You see, although I know when the breakdown occurred, I still don’t understand why it occurred. Surely, there must have been some sort of catalyst! But what? After all, leading up to the breakdown that occurred during the final 60 minutes of our 19 hour straight drive from Ohio to Texas, I had been sitting next to my husband the ENTIRE time. That’s right. For eighteen hours straight I sat next to the man! Certainly, I would have known if anything happened that rose to such a level as to induce a breakdown! But, swear on my life, nothing happened during the trip that does not regularly happen whenever my husband and are together.

So do me a favor. Grab yourself a beer, wine if you must, and pull up a chair. Perhaps if I tell you the tale, you can help me see if there was a single reason to account for:

The Ultimate Breakdown

Prelude to The Breakdown.

In late June, I drove my two sons and two decrepit canines from Texas to my parent’s house on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Concerned his family would end up in Alaska, my husband hoped to set me in the right direction by driving with me to the state of Ohio. The first day, we drove from Texas to St. Louis, and by ‘we’ I mean my husband since I was damn near comatose after I accidentally fed the dog’s Xanax to myself that morning instead of to the dog. The second day, we traveled across Kentucky Avenue, Indiana and Illinois to Ohio, whereupon arrival, my husband screeched, “I can’t take anymore!” before he sprinted from the driver’s seat to the nearest airport. In retrospect, my husband’s reaction should have been an indicator of what was to come. Let's face it, some people just aren’t suited for travel.

I stayed that night at my mother-in-law’s house, and took off for Cape Cod the next morning, making several unannounced, overnight pit stops to drink beer with anyone who would open their door along the way. Two months of hard living on the beaches of Cape Cod later, I packed up my two sons and two decrepit canines and began the long, return trek down Connecticut’s I-95. (See blog entry Highway From Hell for further details) Concerned his sons would end up in the Florida Keys, my husband insisted I pick him up at New Jersey’s Newark airport so he could drive with his family back to Texas. We drove across the maddeningly unending state of Pennsylvania and stayed the night in Ohio. And now it’s today. The day my husband and I will drive 19 straight hours in a pick up truck from Akron, Ohio to Allen, Texas.

6:00 AM, Ohio

I open the back door, step onto the deck, inhale deeply and let out a dreamy sigh.
Indeed, I’m as much in love as I ever was. Just look at me. I’m all goosepimply! Yes, I still get butterflies in my stomach whenever I see my OUTRAGEOUSLY HOT red, Ford Lariat 150 pickup truck with extended cab, heated AND air conditioned leather seats, XM radio, and appropriately sized cup holders. It’s true. Even after all this time, I still find the only thing hotter than my truck is me behind the wheel.

Backlit by the glow of the rising morning sun, I take a moment to drink in the truck’s beauty from grille to tailgate. My eyes travel lovingly over the bold curve of the front hood, the shiny red doors on the cab, the custom fitted, black canvas Tonneau truck bed cover that securely snaps into place to keep my shit from flying out. And then, of course, there is the beautiful tailgate to which something very bad is about to happen!

“HOLD IT!” I point at my husband. “Stop! Right! There!” In one hand, my husband holds his traveling suitcase: In the other, he holds the handle to the truck’s tailgate. “Do NOT open that tailgate.”

“Why not?” he asks.

Why NOT?! I shake my head. Why not, he asks. He can ask that question for he has the luxury of not knowing what I know. You see, he wasn’t there that last day on Cape Cod when I packed clothes, golf clubs, books, electronics, sporting equipment and two months worth of careless purchases into the bed of the truck. He can’t begin to comprehend how many hours it took me to shuffle, twist, slide, unload, repack, jam, push and finally SHOVE everything in sideways just to make it fit. And he doesn’t know that the exorbitantly over priced picture I promised not to buy is resting on top of it all. In short, what lies in the bed of that truck is nothing short of a compacted powder keg of belongings, waiting to EXPLODE like a giant, uncoiled spring at the tiniest of breeches. No doubt, just one careless unlatch of the tailgate, just one pop of a snap on the bed cover, will immediately unleash a torrent of pressure powerful enough to blast all my personal belongings straight into the outer stratosphere.

“But there’s no room in the cab,” he protests. “And I don’t want to drive with the suitcase on the passenger’s side floor again. My legs are killing me from yesterday.” He makes a good point. Unfortunately, when I packed up the bed and the cab of the truck to the fullest before I left Cape Cod, I forgot to account for my husband, and therefore, forgot to remind him not to bring any sort of personal effects with him to the airport. Needless to say, with his suitcase taking up all the floor space in front of the passenger’s seat, his legs got pretty cramped during the times when I took the wheel during our trek across Pennsylvania.

“Just give it to me,” I roll my eyes at Mr. Negative Nelly. “There’s plenty of room in the cab!” I limp over to my husband. Unfortunately, I recently suffered a sport’s injury which tore the shit out of my hamstring. Which was why I pretended to be asleep while my husband took an awfully long time to load up the cab this morning. My husband hands me his suitcase, I limp over to the rear right door and open it.

Sweet Jesus!! Just look at this place! It’s packed! The back bench seat is piled high with blankets, pillows, bags of chips, my traveling case, Xbox, books, DS systems, Madlibs and on top of it all, two sleepy boys with their heads crammed against the ceiling. The floor of the back seat offers little hope as well. There is an ancient, deaf and blind German Shepard mix who is groggy from all the Xanax pills she has taken to calm her traveling nerves, and next to her, is a just-as-ancient, beyond obese, neurotic black lab who is groggy from all the Valium medication she has taken to stop her from climbing on my head because she fears abandonment. Interspersed among the canines, is a cooler, movies, magazines, a few sex toys and an assortment of sundries. Clearly, there is no room here for a suitcase. I open the front passenger door. On the floor is my ‘Profanity Provides Relief!’ pink pocketbook and my laptop. I open the driver’s side door. On the floor is a brake and a gas pedal. Oh look! Here’s room! I jam the suitcase in between the driver and passenger seat until it rests on the center console.

“Okay! I found a place for your suitcase! Let’s go!” I pleasantly call to my husband as I hop into the driver’s seat. “I’ll drive first!”

A moment later, the passenger door clicks shut and I assume my husband is in the truck.
After all, I can’t see him over the suitcase.

“See that?” I brag. “I told you there was plenty of room!”

I put the truck in reverse and back out of the driveway. Then I hit the breaks. Damn this suitcase! It keeps getting in the way of my elbow.

“Listen, do you mind putting this on the passenger’s side floor?” I push the suitcase on to his lap.
Two minutes, one resentful glare and his feet on top of the suitcase later, my husband pulls out the Atlas, since I was too cheap to pay the extra bucks for Ford to install a GPS.

“Okay, by my calculations, it should take 19 hours to get home. Providing, of course, that we don’t stop every five minutes,” he advises.

“Sounds good!” I chime as I make a left hand turn five minutes later.

“Where are you going?” he asks.

“To get gas,” I reply. Five minutes later, I make a right hand turn.

Now where are you going!?”

“I‘ve got to use the bathroom,” I reply as I hop out of the car and run into Burger King. Five minutes later, I make another right.

Now where the hell are you going?”

“I need a Diet Coke!” I swing into the McDonalds that is located right next door to the Burger King, pull up to the drive thru and order my drink.

“Would you like anything else with that?“ the intercom voice inquires.

“Uhhhh….” I internally debate. Normally, I’m a healthy eater. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ate something from McDonalds. After all, the starch infused, oil laden, animal byproducts that McDonalds tries to pass off for food is disgusting! It never ceases to amaze me how people can argue that McDonald’s food is addictive. Food is not addictive. Now crack cocaine! THAT shit is addictive! But unfortunately, I’m hungry.

“I guess I’ll try one of those McMuffin thingys,” I say. Five minutes later, I pull through the Burger King that is located on the other side of the McDonalds.

“Next time, try asking others if they would like something,” my husband snaps after I hand him his coffee.

Seventeen quick stops later, I complete the two mile drive to the highway and merge into traffic.
“Damn. How can there be all these stations and no good music,” I remark as I continually and incessantly flip through the channels. I thought I had put a whole bunch of CDs in the truck before I left Cape Cod, but I can’t find them.

“Hey!” my husband smiles during the split second that I am not turning the radio dial. “I like this song!”

“Really?” I ask right before I turn the dial in search of a good song. Then, I turn off the air conditioner my husband just turned on. I hate to be cold. I much prefer to keep the truck’s internal temperature at a steady 98 degrees.

“Why is it so damned hot in here?” my husband asks a minute later. Sweat is pouring down his face.

“Sorry. I guess I accidentally turned on your seat warmer,” I apologize.

***
So as you can see, the first two miles of the trip went well. No red flags here to indicate that a breakdown was forth coming. And certainly, if you had been able to strap yourself to the roof of the truck and film the subsequent 12 hours, you would filmed that the trip continued on in pretty much the same manner.

***
12 Hours later. 6:00 PM. State of Kentucky.


“Pull over at the next gas station,” I say to my husband.

“What for?” he asks.

“I need to buy cigarettes,” I reply.

“Why?” he asks. I explain that ever since the State of New Jersey determined the most
effective way to pay for the state’s collective and ongoing governmental overspending was to fleece the cigarette tax shit out of elderly retirees on fixed incomes and poor minorities from the inner city, my educated, rich smoker friend from New Jersey was forced to look over the state line for cheaper cigarettes. And since we’re driving through Kentucky, a state with a very low cigarette tax rate, who better to pick my friend up some cigarettes and mail them to her than me?

“Uh…fine,” my husband sighs with resignation as he pulls off the highway. “Just hurry up. We’re never going to make it to Texas if we keep pulling over every five minutes.”

“No problem. This will be quick,” I assure and run into the gas station.

A hundred stops that occurred at five minute intervals later, I finally locate 10 cartons of Marlboro Ultras. And that’s when a problem arose. Where the hell am I going to put 10 fucking cartons of cigarettes!? It took me forever to find a place for each carton, but I did! I stacked three cartons on top of the suitcase, put one on top of the middle console and laid three cartons lengthwise across the front dashboard. Then I directed both the kids to prop up a carton between their respective head rest and the back window. As for the final carton, I simply turned one of the dogs into a drug mule with a twelve inch incision and a staple gun.

“Okay, let’s go,” I direct my husband when I am at long last finally through. My husband pulls onto the highway. “Man this ride is taking forever! Can’t you speed up? You’re driving so slow!” I gripe.

My husband glares at me. Jesus. What’s his problem. I’m just stating a fact. He IS a slow driver. Still, he probably doesn’t need to hear me complain.

“Speed up! And why is it so cold in here?!” I turn off the air conditioner. “Good Lord, my leg hurts. It really doesn’t pay to be an athlete, you know,” I rub the back of my hamstring, which fortunately, isn’t too far away since my feet are on top of the cigarettes on top of the suitcase, and therefore, my knees are folded under my chin. “I’m hungry. Are you hungry?” I shuffle through the dozens of McDonalds bags I’ve accumulated over the past twelve hours in desperate search of a French fry. “Good God, what’s the point of having XM radio if there is no good music?” I turn the dial in the middle of my husband’s favorite song. He husband continues to glare at me.

Suddenly, my husband swerves the truck hard, sending the far left cigarette carton on the dashboard sliding his way! Apparently, because his eyes were squarely on me instead of on the road where they should have been, we almost got sideswiped by a maniac weaving in and out of traffic at 100 miles per hour.

“Holy shit!” my husband exclaims.

“You really ought to drive more carefully, you know,” I observe.

“No, not that. The sticker!” my husband snaps impatiently as he pushes the cigarette carton that slid in front of the registration sticker out of the way.

“Look at the sticker!” my husband points to the orange registration sticker on the outside, bottom left hand corner of the windshield. “The car registration is expired!” I look over at the sticker and observe a backwards number 7. Apparently, the registration expired in July. That sucks. How the hell could that have happened?

“Well, that’s not good,” I reply as I turn off the air conditioner he just turned on.

“No, it’s not good!” my husband agrees. “Didn’t you remember to pay the registration renewal before you left in June?!” he asks, rather accusatorily. I stare at him for a moment.

You know, my husband NEVER listens to me. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve asked him to pick up milk from the store on his way home from work, only to discover him empty handed in my kitchen when he walks though the door. ‘Where’s the milk?’ I ask. ‘What milk? You never asked me to pick up milk!’ he says. When these memory losses began at first, I figured he was just trying to gaslight me, because that is something I would do. Then I began to think he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Of course, I dismissed Alzheimer’s when it became apparent that my husband could easily recall the time, date, where I was standing and what I was wearing whenever I made false promises to have sex: He just couldn’t remember anything else I said! Of course, we women remember everything.

“No, I didn’t pay the registration!“ I bark. “You said you were going to pay the bill! Don’t you remember? June 27? I was sitting at the desk, paying bills. You walked by, you were wearing a blue shirt, and I held up the registration renewal form and asked, ‘Do you want me to pay this?’ And YOU said, and I quote, “No. Don’t bother. I’ll take care of the registration after I fly back from Ohio!”

“Hmm,” my husband shakes his head, confused. “I don’t remember any of that.”

Well, of course he doesn’t remember! I made the whole thing up! And if my husband ever bothered to listen to me, he would know that conversation never took place! On the other hand, I can clearly remember not paying the bill.

“Well, check the glove compartment. Maybe I paid the registration and tossed the sticker in the document folder,” my husband suggests as he turns on the air conditioner. “Last thing we need is to get pulled over for driving an unregistered vehicle.”

Though I doubt I’ll find it, I open up the glove compartment. A thick stack of CDs spill out into my lap. Oh, that’s where I put them! I immediately shut the glove compartment.

“Well? Is the registration sticker in there!?” my husband urgently asks.

“No,” I reply simply as I flip through the music.

“Are you sure?” he asks, worriedly. Well, of course I’m sure the non existent registration sticker is not in the document folder in the glove compartment! After all, I removed the document folder along with the thick Ford Maintenance Book before I left Cape Cod to make room for the CDs!

“I’m sure,” I reply confidently.

“Dammit! Where else could it be?!” my husband worries. Best guess? On top of the refrigerator in my parent’s garage. Along with the document folder. “Shit. I hope we don’t get pulled over. Driving an unregistered vehicle is not a good thing,” he continues to worry.

A moment of silence ensues before I look over at my husband.

“I suppose this is as good a time as any to tell you that we’re driving without insurance papers as well.”

“WHAT?!”

“On the other hand, we’ve got ABBA!” I say happily as I pop in the CD and turn off the air conditioner that my husband just turned on.

***

Once again, no red flags here! Certainly nothing to suggest that a breakdown was in the making. But six hours later, 18 hours after we left Ohio and with only one more hour to go, my husband’s behavior suddenly changed. One second he was calm, and the next thing I knew, he started screaming at me for no good reason! Of course, I knew that I was not to blame for his new found, clearly misplaced anger since my behavior hadn’t changed one iota during the entire drive. Obviously, there was a breakdown happening! A breakdown, no doubt, brought on by going absolutely, 100%, bat shit STIR CRAZY. He really shouldn’t feel ashamed about it. I mean, it is perfectly natural for the weak minded to go absolutely, 100% bat shit STIR CRAZY after driving for 18 hours. Not that I would know since I am of a strong and sound mind. But for reasons that had nothing to do with me, i.e. he went stir crazy, my husband finally reached a breaking point. And from that moment on, things just went from bad to worse until my husband reached The Ultimate Breakdown.

12:00 Midnight. On a Lone, Dark, Desolate Texas Highway…
With Just One Hour Left to Go


Is it me or is it hot in here? Why does the truck not seem to be moving? I hate Dancing Queen. Are there any more French fries? With dipping sauce? My leg hurts. Did someone fart or was that the dog? Is that Las Vegas up ahead? And why are the white lines on the highway undulating? Well, who the hell knows. At this point, all I know is that:
I must get the fuck out of this passenger's seat and get the fuck out of this truck. Right fucking NOW!!!!!!!
I can't take it anymore! Between floating dog hair, no room, fighting children who incessantly ask if we’re there yet, no songs on XM, the repeated play of ABBA, fluctuating temperatures, my husband’s incredibly SLOW driving, and miles and miles of flat, God forsaken Texan highway that leads to FUCKING NOWHERE…And these four walls of the truck! They’re moving! They’re closing in on me! They are going to EAT ME! Oh My God! I can’t breathe! I CAN’T BREATHE!!! For God’s sake, somebody shoot me!

Ten minutes later.

What the hell is wrong with people?! I mean, what does a girl have to do to become a victim of a drive by shooting these days? I tried everything! I leaned out the window and frantically waved a Confederate flag while holding up a ‘REINSTATE SLAVERY!’ sign at countless black motorists! I put on a pair of antlers and slapped a bulls-eye on my forehead when that overweight, toothless guy chugging a can of Budweiser passed by in his jalopy of a pick up truck with a shot gun rack! And if the oversized, gigantic, glow in the dark “I AM PROUD TO BE A MUSLIM!“ Bumper Sticker that I plastered dead center on the truck’s tailgate doesn’t get a girl shot on a lone Texas highway, then frankly, I don’t know what the hell does. All I know is I HAVE TO GET OUT OF THIS FUCKING TRUCK!

“Do you mind if I drive the final hour?” I ask my husband. Calmly. We switch places.

“Remember, we need to pull off at the next exit for gas,” my husband reminds me just before I FLOOR THE GAS PEDAL and ROCKET down the highway like a BAT OUT OF HELL, passing by no fewer than 17 exits with gas stations in under five minutes!

“SLOW DOWN!” my husband hollers.

“Sorry,” I mutter as I stare unblinking through the windshield with blood shot eyes. I grip the wheel tight with both hands.

“You need to get off at the next exit! We are seriously low on gas!” my husband starts screaming at me for no good reason! I mean, what’s the good in it? I’m not listening to him! And I am not about to stop until I reach Allen, Texas! I will never stop!! Ever! EVER!!! Oh look! McDonalds! I haven’t had anything from McDonalds in nearly an hour!

I fly off the exit and onto the access road.

“Uh…I didn’t see a gas station sign,” my husband says, confused.

“That’s because there wasn’t one,“ I reply evenly as I bank a hard right into the McDonalds parking lot. I ask neither my husband nor my at-long-last asleep children if they want anything.

“Can I have three Supersized Big Macs with extra dipping sauce, please,” I serenely place the order for myself.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. Did you say ‘sauce'?’” the intercom voice asks.

“Yes,” I placidly confirm.

“Uhhh, Big Macs don’t come with dipping sauce, ma’am. Did you mean…”

“JUST GIVE ME THE FUCKING SAUCE!!!!” I screech. “Oh. And an apple pie.”

“Are you okay?” my husband asks warily.

“Yes,” I reply. And then, in one huge bite, I shove everything into my mouth. Wrappers and all. “I feel better now.” But that was a lie. After all, the high I got from the Big Macs wore off a minute later, and I was back to feeling a bit boxed in.

I drive forward through the McDonalds parking lot until I reach the access road. But unfortunately, instead of making a left onto the access road to drive back to the exit I just got off, I accidentally make a right. For several minutes, I drive along on the access road that parallels the highway that leads in the direction toward home. Then I realize my mistake and begin to do a three point turn on the relatively narrow access road in my huge red truck. Twenty rapid points of turning later, I’ve turned the truck almost a quarter way around.

“What the hell are you doing?” my husband demands when I reach the twenty ninth point.

“What the hell does it look like I’m doing?“ I snap back as I take point thirty in reverse. Over the brim. And into a ditch. “I‘m turning around!”

“You don’t need to turn around!” my husband barks at me after he pushes the truck out of the ditch and hops back into the passenger’s seat. “We’re on the highway access road! There will be another ramp to get back on the highway up ahead!” My husband glances worriedly at the gas gauge. “Besides, we really need to get to a gas station.” Hmm. This sounds like a recipe for getting lost to me.

“But how do you know there will be a gas station ahead?” I quiz my husband.

“There are always gas stations along the access road,” he says.

“Yeah, but we don’t want to lose time by driving away from the highway and off into the middle of nowhere in search of a gas station,” I say.

“We’re not going to drive away from the highway!“ he insists. “The access road runs parallel to the highway!”

“But once we get gas, we’ll then have to turn around and drive all the way back to the exit we just got off of and that’s going to cost us time!”

OR,” my husband counters. “We can get back on the highway by taking any one of the number of ACCESS RAMPS up ahead that connect the HIGHWAY ACCESS ROAD to the HIGHWAY!”

Grudgingly, I follow the plan, although it makes no sense. If you ask me, we should just turn around, drive back to the exit we just got off, get back on the highway and get off at the next exit. Still, I continue along the access road, leaving behind the exit that I know for a FACT leads back to the highway.

“Are you sure there’s a gas station ahead?” I ask when the streetlights appear to grow dim.

“Yes, I’m sure. Keep driving.”

“Are you sure we’re not driving away from the highway?” I ask when I am certain that the recent curve in the road has sent us traveling perpendicularly away from the highway and off into the middle of nowhere.

“Yes, I’m sure! Keep driving!”

“Are you sure this access road leads back to the highway?”

“Yes!! Keep driving!”

An hour later, somewhere in the distance, I distinctly hear the strumming of a banjo.

“Are you sure…?”

“YES! KEEP GOING!”

At long last, I see a sign. It says: APPALACHIA. Oh, for cryin’ out loud! I knew I shouldn’t have listened to my husband!

“What are you doing!?” my husband cries out.

“Turning around!” I can’t believe that my husband just cost us all this extra time! “I’m going back to the exit we got off!” In a flash, I spin the truck around and slam the pedal to the metal.

“For God’s sake! Slow Down!” my husband screams as he grabs onto the Oh-Jesus handle above the passenger’s seat. Behind me, I hear the sound of two children, two dogs and everything else not nailed down in the back collectively THUMP on the left side interior door. But I guess that was only to expected since I just took that corner on two wheels at a million fucking miles per hour.

“SLOW DOWN!” my husband screams even louder. “You’re going to wrap us around a tree!”

“GOOD! Maybe I’ll get ejected right through the windshield!” I explode maniacally. I’m like a thirsty sailor adrift at sea who finally drinks the salt water and is driven mad! “LOOK! UP AHEAD! Is that a boat!?” Hallucinating, I drive straight for a telephone poll.

“TURN!’” my husband shrieks. The will to survive being what it is, I turn the wheel at the last second.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” I yell at my husband as I continue to race down the road.

“WHAT!?”

“Would it have killed you to ask for directions!?”

“To where?! We're not lost!” my husband throws up his hands. “We are on the access road! Why the hell did you turn around?”

“Because I didn’t want to get lost! I told you we should have gotten a GPS!” I bark. “You just cost us an extra HOUR!”

“We don’t need a GPS system! We’re not lost!” my husband hollers. Typical male, can’t admit when he’s lost. “Besides, you were the one who refused to get the God damned GPS system anyway!”

“That’s because Ford wanted a fucking arm and leg for it and you don’t make enough money for us to afford luxuries such as GPSes!”

“Well, maybe if you got off your ass and found a JOB, we could afford things like GPSes!” my husband counters.

Wha…wha…wha…?" I cover my injured heart with one hand as I stammer since my husband’s insensitive accusation has left me at a loss of words. But only for a second.

“I can’t BELIEVE you just went there!“ I burst. “You know that I have no skills and am unemployable! And you knew that when you married me! So stop blaming me for your poor marital decision and learn to take responsibility for your actions!” By this time, I am screaming so loudly, the interior of the truck is vibrating from the reverberation.

“Are we almost there?” my older son asks sleepily from the back seat. Oh, now isn’t THAT just perfect. My husband woke up our son! I adjust the interior rear view mirror until I spot my exhausted boy. Poor guy. Surely, such a long trip hasn’t been easy for him. My son and I lock eyes in the mirror.

“No, we’re not almost there!” I explode. “We’ve NEVER going to get there! We’re going to drive and drive and drive until we all DIE! Now stop asking!”

“Oh, calm down!" my husband snaps. “And we didn’t lose an hour. We were only on the access road for five minutes! And if you had just stayed on the access road instead of turning around, we'd have gas and be on the highway by now!”

“I saw a sign for APPALACHIA,” I seethe.

“It was a street sign!” Yeah, whatever.

“Jesus, Cynthia, SLOW DOWN!”

BUMP! Ba-Boom! BUMP! Ba-boom!! The truck bounces high in the air with each deep pot hole I fly over! In the rear view mirror, I spy all the contents in the back seat being tossed in the air like a salad. Books! Games! Dogs! Trash! My older son! Desperate to slow me down, my husband tries to appeal for the safety of the only thing I truly care about.

“You’re going to damage the truck!” His plea works and I slow down to half the reckless speed. I continue driving, but I can’t shake this feeling that something is missing.

I look at the rearview mirror. Hmm. Something is missing.

“Where’s your brother?” I meet my older son’s eyes in the mirror.

“I dunno,” my older son shrugs. Of course, my first thought was ‘OH MY GOD! DID HE FALL OUT?!’ but that feeling was immediately replaced with ‘Ah fuck it. I can always have another kid.’ All I know is, I’m not stopping!

Some minutes later, I hear a mumble. I look above me. Then below me. Then to either side. Where the hell is that sound coming from? Then suddenly! My younger son SPRINGS up from seemingly nowhere and lands on the center console, gasping for air. He is covered in dog hair.

“Where the hell have you been?!” I shout at him, disgusted. “I was worried!”

“I don’t know. One minute,” my confused son pants, “I was sleeping and then the next thing I know, I was lying underneath the dogs!“ Apparently, ever since my son fell out of his seat when I coiled that turn on two wheels, he has been struggling to free himself from under 100 pounds of Xanax and Valium induced canine dead weight. Fortunately, the recent jaunt over the potholes coughed him out from under the dogs and onto the console. Immediately, my heretofore comatose canines come to and start barking.

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

“Dammit! You woke up the dogs!” I admonish my son. “And why weren’t you wearing your seat belt? DOoO YoOou KnoOOOw howww unSAAAfe that issss?!” My shaky words reverberate from the new series of pot holes I just discovered.

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

“I WAS wearinggggg my seat BE.e.E.e.LT!” my younger son insists.

“SHUT UP!” my husband yells over the loud barking and otherwise complete cacophonic mayhem. “PULL THE DAMN TRUCK OVER!”

It was just then that I realize the truck is driving funny. What happened!? It feels like I’m driving a three legged dog! I pull onto the poorly lit brim of the so-called access road and park the truck. My husband shoves my younger son out of the way, flips open the console and grabs the spare set of keys with the pin flashlight attached. He clicks on the flashlight and jumps out of the car.

“Dammit!” he hollers. “The tire is flat!” You have got to be kidding me! I hop out of the truck and stomp over to the back right tire. My husband shines the flashlight on the tire. Damn! He’s right! The tire is as flat as my chest!

“Well, how the hell did that happen?” I wonder. My husband doesn’t reply. He just glares at me, flaring his nostrils. Typical male, can't handle when asked a question he doesn’t know the answer to. My husband angrily walks to the rear passenger door and wails it open.

“MOVE!” he barks at my still gasping son. I hear my husband flip up the seat. Then I hear the rustling of four thousand empty fast food bags. Then, through the rear windshield, I see the interior light come on. Then I watch a dog stagger out of the truck and disappear into the tall grass that separates the access road from the highway. Then, I turn my attention back to the truck and watch my husband’s arms flail all over the interior. Good Lord! What the hell is he looking for?!

“If you’re looking for the flashlight, there is one in the console!” I impatiently sing out as I move to the back of the truck. Emotionally spent and feeling loads better now that I’m out of the truck, I plop my butt down on the back bumper and pick at my nails to pass the time.

Two seconds later, my husband blinds me with the flashlight that he’s been holding in his hand this entire time.

“I’m not looking for the flashlight!” he barks in my face. “I was looking for the jack! But it’s missing! Where the hell is it?”

“Well, don’t look at me!” I cry defensively. “I didn’t even know we owned a jack! Where was it?”

“Under the back seat!” he insists. Good grief. If it’s happened once, it’s happened a million times. My husband picks up an item, puts it down somewhere else, forgets he moved it and then can’t figure out why the item is not in its original location.

“You probably just moved it and don’t remember,” I sigh, exasperated.

“I did not move the jack,” He of the Faulty Memory insists. “The jack has been where it’s always been since we bought the truck! In the compartment underneath the back seat! Are you sure you haven’t seen it!?”
What the hell is my husband talking about?!

“Wait a second! There’s not a jack in that compartment: There has never been a jack in that compartment!” I assert impatiently. “In fact, the only thing that HAS ever been in that compartment is a black bag!”

My husband grits his teeth and sits down hard on the bumper next to me. Typical male, hates when his wife is right. My husband inhales deeply and turns his head to face mine.

“Cynthia. The jack is IN the black bag,” he seethes as calmly as possible.

“Oh,” I reply. “Well, then yes. I have seen it.”

“Oh, shit, please don’t tell me you left it at your parent’s house!” he asserts the outrageous assumption.

“No, I didn’t leave it at my parents house!” I snap defensively. “It’s in the truck!”

“Then why didn’t you tell me where it was when you saw me looking for it?!”

“Because I thought you were looking for the flashlight!” I exclaim.

“AHHHHH!” my husband lets out in frustration. “Whatever. Just…where’s the bag?”

Sitting side by side on the bumper, faces turned toward one another, my husband and I lock eyes. Then, every so slowly, I shift my eyes to the right.

“It’s in the BED OF THE TRUCK?!” my husband correctly hollers out the jeopardy answer. I confirm the question with a succinct singular nod. “Why the hell would you put it there?!”

“Well, who could have foreseen we would get a flat tire?” I reason. My husband’s face turns a shade of deep crimson.

“At least tell me that I can access the bag from the tailgate,” my husband prays. Futilely. It is right behind the cab, dead center in the middle. Under the bed cover.

“Are you sure!?” my husband inquires desperately. The last thing he wants to do is unsnap the impossible to snap back on Tonneau canvas bed cover and rifle through our belongings on a dark, so-called, access road.

“Yes, I’m sure!” I reply impatiently. Unlike him, I always remember where I put things.

My husband reluctantly stand up and walks to where the bed cover meets the cab. I stand up and watch him from the back bumper of the truck.

“Are you sure that you’re sure?” my husband asks.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

My husband reaches toward the bed cover, wraps two fingers around the snap, pulls with all his might and then...
ka-ka-ka-BOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!! Holy Shit! What an explosion! Instinctively, I cover my head. Then there is silence. I open one eye. Is it safe? Immediately, my eye is drawn to the bed of the truck. It is completely empty. Well, except for the black bag that is leaning on the interior tailgate right where I left it. As for the rest of my worldly possessions, I slowly turn a suspecting eye toward the sky just in time to watch them all disappear into the outer stratosphere.

“INCOMING!” I shriek a minutes later as I take cover. BAM! CRASH! SHATTER! THWOMP! BOING!!!! Just the same as they blasted off, all my possessions fell back to Earth! Except they didn’t return in quite so orderly a fashion.

Out of the sky, something lands in my husband’s hands.

“HEY!” he yells. “When the hell did you buy this picture!?”

Thirty two minutes, one changed tire and a piss poor repacking job later, I climb into the passenger’s seat since my husband stripped me of all further driving privileges. He turns the key in the ignition.

“Let’s just get the hell out of here,” my husband says, more to himself than to me. I couldn’t agree more.

“You said it,” I agree. “But first, you need to go find the dog.”

My husband frantically turns in his seat and searches the back. “Where the hell is the dog?!”

“She jumped out and took off into the grass,” I hitch my thumb toward the huge dark field of three foot tall grass.

What?!“ my husband shrieks. “When did that happen?!”

“When you were searching for the jack!” Duh!

“Jesus Christ! Why didn’t you go after her?!”

“I couldn‘t!” I protest. “You know I have a sport’s injury!”

“You PULLED your hamstring because you got DRUNK and then tried to do a FUCKING SPLIT!” my husband bursts. “Even though you’ve NEVER been able to do a SPLIT in your entire LIFE!”

“Oh, sure! Blame the Victim!”

“Victim?! Of what?! GROSS STUPIDITY?”

“Of optimism,” I snap. “Besides, the dog is blind! She can’t have gotten far.”

Ten minutes later, my husband scoops up the dog from the middle lane of the distant highway and froggers his way back through several 18 wheelers. With 50 pound pooch in arms, I watch as he struggles to climb over a split rail fence, navigate a deep gulley, and cross through two miles of tick infested grass. Good Lord. Could he be any slower?

Dog tossed safely into the back, we silently reenter the highway. I say silently because my husband is no longer talking to me. Don’t ask me why. Who the hell knows. I settle back in the seat. I just need to be patient. After all, there is less than an hour to go.

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

Just a short 60 minutes.

“Are we almost there?”

Yup, a mere 3600 seconds. Which is a really big number! Good Lord! Can’t my husband drive any faster?!

“What are you doing?” my husband finally snaps at me, breaking the silence.

For Pete's sake. What the hell does it look like I’m doing? It’s the same thing I keep doing over and over! At 30 second intervals, I dramatically drape myself over the middle console, stare at the speedometer, sit back up and impatiently shift all over the passenger seat as I issue ever increasing, voluminous sighs of discontent. Obviously, since my husband and I are no longer speaking, I am using nonverbal clues to communicate that he is driving TOO FUCKING SLOW! For God’s sake, if he was driving any slower, we’d be going backwards! Just look! Look out the window! That little old lady with blue hair taking us on the inside at 5 fucking MPH just flipped us off!

“Can’t you speed up?!” I cry. “You’re driving like a girl!”

“Well, Cynthia,” my husband’s voice has a distinct edge. “Maybe if I wasn’t driving an unfuckingregistered truck without fucking insurance papers while trafficking a million fucking cartons of cigarettes over state lines, I would have to fucking drive like a girl!“

Flabbergasted, I stare at my husband with mouth agape. What the hell kind of piss poor excuse is that?!

WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!

“Are we there yet?”

“For Christ‘s sake, grow a set of balls and SPEED UP!” I yell.

“Fine! You want me to drive fast?!?! Then I’ll drive fast!” my husband puts the pedal to the metal and launches us down the empty highway. “Are you happy now?!”

No, I’m not happy! My head just snapped against the head rest from the G Force! Good Lord! The man has gone insane! He’s having a breakdown! We’re going too fast! Holy shit! My husband is out of control! Why the hell he is doing driving so fast?! He’s crazy! He needs to be stopped! Oh Dear God, Help!

And then! Just at that very moment, God sent help.

WHOOOP! WHOOOP! WHOOOP!

In the form of a Texas State Trooper.

“What the FUCK?!” my husband screams as he pounds his fist against the wheel! “You’ve got to be fucking KIDDING ME!” But judging by how close the trooper is tailing us, I don’t think so.

Thirty eight warnings and a whole lot a fast talking and badge flashing later, my husband ever so slowly pulls onto the highway. For a minute, we drive in silence. I try to find just the right thing to say.

“Fact is,” I finally come up with something. “You really shouldn’t have been driving that fast. Speed kills, you know.”

I look over at my husband. His entire body is shaking as he fluctuates between racking sobs and insane laughter. Now that I look back on it, I wonder if that was when the breakdown occurred. But, no. I don’t think so. I don’t think the ultimate breakdown occurred until five minutes later.

When we ran out of gas.

1 comment:

Damian Ross said...

I still can't believe no one died on that trip. And you're right, husband, totally unreasonable.

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