You know how there are times when everybody and everything pisses you off, and then eventually, after battle fatigue has compromised your defenses, you realize it's you?
Well, it's not me. (He started it.)
Imagine it like this: You're driving to some destination (Newark Airport, say) and your passenger is Rambo. You are driving (say he asked for your car keys but you politely declined) and you believe that this gives you a small advantage. The road is straight, the traffic is light, there's time to spare, and then it happens.
One of the kids in the backseat coughs. A sip of water went down the wrong pipe.
Your options are to ask the kid if he's okay (he was), or you might say "pipe down, Drama Queen," or if you're Rambo, you scream at the top of your lungs and accuse the boy of trying to ruin everything. Once the boy stops coughing, he yells back.
"I'm choking to death and you're mad at me?" And then, fueled by the sound of his own righteous indignation, the F-bomb is deployed. "I'm fucking choking to death and you're insane!"
The car windows present a 360-degree panorama of immaculate white clouds suspended in a sweet, blue sky. They dangle suggestively above the oil refineries, which spew their own toxic clouds. They tease and taunt and blur together.
Does Rambo really try to climb over his seat? Does he lunge at the nervy, F-bomb dropping kid and yell at him to "Smack me! Come on, big boy. Smack me right now!" Is this even possible?
The driver looks out at the clouds. Weightless and blameless, the white clouds take up the whole sky so you hardly notice the road.
"You need to be quiet right now so I can drive," our driver says to no one in particular.
But Rambo wants out. "Let me out of this car--pull over right now and let me out of this car!" The speedometer reads 70. Maybe 80. He repeats his demand again and again. Is he really trying to open his door?
You, the driver, chant soothingly, perhaps to yourself, "I can't pull over. I have to keep driving."
Naturally, the return trip seems to go much quicker; the clouds are just clouds again, and a kind of exaggerated calm has been restored. Until about 20 minutes later, when the cell phone rings and it's Rambo. His tone is casual.
"Turn around and pick me up." He just checked his ticket and it turns out Rambo's flight is really tomorrow.
Have you noticed that if you don't deal with something on the spot, it will happen over and over and over again? Often, even if you believe you've handled a problem, the same kind of thing will come back again to bite you on the ass, just so you can prove you learned the right lesson. Some folks call this karma. And sometimes it happens in a car.
* * *
If you were my passenger and I had you all to myself in a fast car, this is what I might scream at you:
Please don't even think about telling me to get rid of all the toxic people in my life. Please don't spew verbatim from some whorish, simplistic self-help book that you paid for just to make you feel good. Often our lives are enmeshed--for a variety of sound reasons--with the lives of others whom we cannot control. We can't agree with them, we can't manipulate them, we can't reason with them, and we can't avoid them. That's right, we can't avoid them. Because we have to consider the competing needs of others who are dependent on us, who we love most dearly, and to whom our own needs are subservient. Yep, I said it. Our own needs are fucking subservient. Sometimes, we have to choose the lesser evil.
Or I might ask you to lean over so I can whisper in your ear:
So I'm driving, big deal? When that 18-wheeler has a blowout, baby, it won't matter who's behind the wheel cause we're all roadkill.
Or if there was no car, and we were lying in a meadow chewing blades of grass, we might look up at the shimmering, empty clouds and tell each other which one looks like a rabbit and which one looks like a horse. Then we might be able to say to each other:
I'm doing the best I can.