Solene van der Wielen – A Smooth Ride

June 30, 2014 | By | 3 Replies More

‘I. Will. Not. Lose. Ever.’ She turns down the radio. She wonders why the artist is so mad. No need to punctuate each word so harshly. Stuck in traffic, she has nothing to do but sit, pensive, imagining a ghetto youth on some abandoned concrete doorstep, a far cry from the green lawn suburbs she grew up in. “That was, ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doing’ by the one and only Jay-Z. You’re listening to UrbanRadio65, for the freshest music all day long.” She wasn’t sure who had chosen the station. Probably her son Joey this morning before she dropped him off at school. He was constantly fidgeting with the stations when he was in the passenger seat, eager to find something he knew would grate on her nerves. Teenagers. You do everything you can to produce a normal, respectful, well-educated child, and one day you wake up to find yourself living with a pink-haired, swearing, C minus stranger. You wonder why he even bothers to have you sign his report cards. Just goes to show.

The car in front of her surges forward, gaining a few feet in what must be a mile-long parade. It wasn’t even rush hour. Lord only knew what was holding them up. Probably an accident. You leave home early one morning not knowing that it was the day some unlucky bastard would accidentally miss a red light and put you out of your misery. Her brother Edmund had passed that way. He never even knew the sex of his then still unborn child. It had been a girl but for some reason they didn’t want to find out until the birth. As if scheduling the moment they’d know would somehow not make it true in the previous months. For Joey, they’d found out as soon as they could. That way she could paint the nursery walls and choose the furniture before she’d be unable to waddle to and from the bathroom.
She always preferred knowing.

Her therapist argued she was too rational, didn’t give enough room to the emotional. She pictured Rational as a business man in an ironed black suit and Emotional looking like Joey: flowing hair and a spiked dog collar. In her defense, Emotional didn’t look that approachable or reliable. Her therapist had given her a Venn diagram with each in two circles and “wise mind” scribbled into the intersection. Was Wise Mind meant to be some ancient monk? She thought of friends who swore on yoga and juicing, claiming them to be panaceas. They often did look happy coming out of the gym, with their blond hair in strict ponytails and tight sports clothes barely showing any evidence of effort. She was only ever so mildly bitter but usually just had to remind herself that the leader of the pack, Sharon, might do better with marriage counseling rather than a constant diet of kale to bring back her wandering husband. Really, she couldn’t complain. She had a loving husband, a dramatic but apparently still sane son (though she did question that on a weekly basis), her health, one living parent and an adorable niece. Financially, they were fine, and her administrative job at the school really wasn’t that bad.

No one actually knew what had happened when she’d swallowed the contents of a bottle of aspirin and washed it down with some rather cheap white wine. She hadn’t even written a note. Probably because she, herself, didn’t know what she was doing. Joey had found her by entering her room to ask permission to sleepover at a friend’s place. Apparently an ambulance had been called, someone’s (she’s quite sure it was hers) stomach was pumped, and a day later she woke up with not hazy, but non-existent memories of the previous 24 hours.

Her therapist kept quizzing her on when things went wrong. The thing is, she really didn’t know when. No memory shone out as a symbolic beacon of pain or desperation. The best she could come up with was that she’d been tired.

She settled back into the leather car seat knowing they wouldn’t be moving for another good quarter of an hour. She remembered holding Joey in her arms at the hospital, mere minutes after he was born, her husband beaming down at her; the nursery already ready to accommodate its tenant, and her approved maternity leave stretching out for another few weeks ahead of her. She’d known, at that moment, that everything was going to be fine. Better than fine. Great. Everything was going to be great. Her picture perfect life—green-lawn-married-her-prom-date-university-graduate-blessed-mother—a life that had promised to be a smooth ride, far from any abusive-ghetto-confined-underprivileged narrative, had crashed, just like the two smoking cars coming into view on her left as the line moved forward. How had she ended up here? Stuck in traffic on her way back from therapy, to pick up her stranger son from a day of school he probably had skipped anyway, mechanically chewing gum and staring out the window for the lack of anything better to do? She sure as hell didn’t know.

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Category: Knowing

Comments (3)

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  1. No one’s life is exactly as it seems, and we can never pretend to know each other’s stories – each other’s pain. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Because my eldest one and I were in a similar situation, I can certainly relate to this. You present it perfectly and honestly. I admire your ability to do that.

  3. I like how the narrative drifts from third to second person and it references past and present, just like how our thought process works. Engaging vignette.

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