It had taken me an hour to pack up my car before I hit the road (I finally got a car with cargo space, another step toward moving out of the city), filling the double-parked vehicle with furniture I was taking to the house. When I was loading the last piece, I stepped around to the passenger side of the car to put the last bags in the passenger seat, and a woman on a bike, her daughter on a bike behind her, passed me. Then the woman said, “You shouldn’t be in the bike lane.”
I felt a white-hot flash in my brain, for just a second, before I screamed, “I’m not in the bike lane!” (My wheels were slightly in it, but there was plenty of room for bikes to pass,even with my car door open.) She yelled something back at me over her shoulder and I screamed again, “I’m not afraid to call you a bitch in front of your daughter. Go to hell!”
Classy. Real classy.
I got in the car, my heart pounding and tears smarting in my eyes. “I will not let that get to me, just let go. If she knew you were heartbroken maybe she wouldn’t have said it. Doesn’t matter. People in Park Slope are smug and spoiled. Move on.”
So I began my drive after calming myself down. My new (old) car is much bigger than the one I used to drive (which I am selling to the ex-boyfriend…. which I felt good about selling him because it would “stay in the family,” as my son put it…. now it’s not staying in the family. There is no family…. Well, of course there is, but not the family I was hoping for, trying for….), so focus on the maddening roadways of New York City is key.
Thirty minutes into the drive, I’m feeling better. Driving always calms me down. When my parents were dying and I was driving between Brooklyn and Philadelphia four, five, six times a week, the hours in the car were my only time to be alone with my thoughts, torn as I was between caring for my parents and my son, who was having his own crisis at that time. When my company in San Francisco went belly up in the dot.com crash eleven years ago, leaving so many people I’d convinced to come work with me without a job, I had a three-thousand mile drive across the country, long stretches of empty highway during which I could look at all the mess that had been created and unpack it slowly, the constant pace of pushing forward through grand American landscapes keeping me centered and calm.
So I was starting to settle into the groove of the drive when I hit the tollbooths in the Bronx. I slid up to the EZ-Pass lane, and… nothing. Oh, shit. The EZ-Pass is in other car! Upstate! At the house! Crap. Cars are backing up behind me, and I’m swiveling my head around, trying to find a person in a tollbooth to ask how I can pay the toll and move on.
A female employee approaches, and I put down my window, already apologizing, explaining I have a second car, forgot the EZ-Pass was in there. She cuts me off and starts taking me to task, railing against my apology. “Don’t apologize. You just don’t go into an EZ-Pass Lane without an EZ-Pass. Now look, all these cars are backing up behind you, they have to wait. You’re making this situation. I don’t care if you have another car or what your excuse is. You know you should get a ticket for this. There’s tickets for this. It’s two points on your license, but I’m going to let you go with a warning this time….”
I’m taken aback. I feel tears start at my eyes. I don’t know why she’s being so … cruel. I fumble through explaining why I was explaining and asking how to pay and can we just move on and I’m sorry and I know and….
I open wallet. Only twenties. Of course. Cash-machine currency.
I start to lift a $20 toward her and she says, “Oh no, don’t think you can pay with a $20. It’s $6.50.”
“Just take it,” I say. “Just take it, and let’s move on.”
But of course I have to have a last word, as if I haven’t learned my lesson yet today. “And thank you for making this as unpleasant as possible.”
I start to pull away. I scream, again, but this time, no words. Just anguish. And then I start to wail. A hideous, bottomless wail, and hot tears pour down my face. Oh God, here it is, I think. And I just lean into it. Five, ten, fifteen minutes. I start to sweat from the sheer physicality of the crying. And yes, I am driving. Driving with a focused attention, clearly in control of the car. And dying at the same time.
What the human mind can handle. It’s remarkable, really.
Twenty minutes later I’m empty, but I leave the sticky tears on my face until I can’t stand the sensation of their drying any longer. I’m almost to the weekend house. I’m almost to the happy place, a home I knew my boyfriend would love, nestled in the trees, close to hiking trails, gorgeous bedrock boulders everywhere. And that incredible view of the Hudson River.
Of course I didn’t get the house for him. But he was in so many decisions I made, even well after we’d separated. A truth that is very painful to face. To see how much I was still living in hope, even though I knew how bad things had felt when we were together.
How can I love his spirit so, so much, even knowing that we were so ill-suited to make a life together? It’s maddening.
And then smaller inside my head, a whisper:
How can he give up on us?
Oh, the ache, it’s so deep.
But the Ugly Cry has partly cleansed me. The lump in my throat has lessened in size. The nausea a degree lighter.
When I was first pulling away from the tollbooth, I was wailing because how could the universe send me so much poison when I’m reeling already?
But now that I’m here at the house, I feel that I am the one who shed some poison. Not in my irrational, stupid comments to two different women having their own special kind of bad days. But in the twenty minutes of crying myself clean.
The only way to the other side of pain is to just live right through it (as Amanda so kindly reminded me in her comment yesterday).
And with the first Ugly Cry behind me, I am on my way.