Please Don't Run Me Over

July 17, 2010
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Climbing up the soaked and creaky stairs, Therese and her sisters burst out of the door, expecting to be the first ones out on the roof. The look of surprise was the same on Therese as it was on her sisters, who were all holding pots and pans.

One girl had beaten them to the roof. Her back was facing them and she was unaware of their eyes or footsteps.

No, she was struggling to get her gloves off while she held balloons in one hand and letters in another. She was hastily making additions to the most recent one.

Dear Sue,

Happy New Year!

I still don’t drive. I am wary of trains. But the one thing that terrified me may seem trivial and yes, sexist to you. But this fear most shocked me out of ignorant bliss and made me want to learn to drive. Even driving to get the balloons and stationary was scary, with all the snow on the ground…yeesh.

Along with distracted drivers, teenage boy drivers are my biggest fear. If I happen to see one while waiting at a red light, waves of fear soak my spine and I gulp, multiple times, because suddenly my mouth goes dry. Being in the car with one while they are driving just escalates this fear.

He’s a Boy Scout, he told me as I climbed into the passenger seat. After buckling the rusty seatbelt, the stench of cigarette smoke—the kind that clings to your clothes and house—assaulted my nostrils, and the Lysol that was supposed to mask it made me slightly nauseous and my sight flickered in and out of focus momentarily. He continues to tell me about his project, maybe he mentioned an invasive species of plant. I remember thinking that he was trying so hard to be impressive, and then it hit me, I had an epiphany despite stinging eyes: that people obsessed with their own masculinity are very easily scared.

I watch him fumble with the keys and hear the engine grumbling like a grumpy old man. Perhaps he swore under his breath, I wouldn’t know, I stopped listening to him after he told me how stupid girls were, especially his ex-girlfriend. So help me zombie Christ.

What a great start to a first date, huh?

The awkwardness spirals and for a second I wonder if he would notice if I got out the car…

But soon my ears are ringing, and all other proof of my sanity is lost. I suppose he got the engine running, what else could be making that noise besides my stomach, which envisioned succulent shrimp tacos? Since the noise prevented my ears from working normally, we therefore had to communicate by yelling and using wild (but not obscene) gestures.

All of the above resulted in a distracted driver. I do not know how to emphasize how distracted he was. Here’s an indication of it: So distracted that he cuts across two lanes of RAGING traffic with the wrong turn signal, swerve several times, causing my head to bang into the window. And all of this was less than ten minutes that monster of an SUV first lurched onto the street like an obese toad. I was only brought back to reality when the SHkrreeeeee Of braking tires and the sight of an old woman crossing the street filled my mind. My heart was still pounding away in my ears and I saw that my arms turned a spectacular shade of pale white.

After enduring five perilous minutes, we had made it, unscathed, to the movie theatre. We picked up the 3-D glasses after being ripped off and heading to the auditorium to get seats for Avatar.

I just wanted to eat tacos. Which I would have happily done by myself. Or with friends. But this somehow translated to seeing this movie. Funny, isn’t it, how things can get lost in translation especially when two people are speaking the same language? Sue, this is precisely the reason why I try to tell people things as clearly as possible, and now I speak up all the time.

This movie didn’t require thinking, so I came up with some plans to escape—and regardless how ridiculous or far-fetched they were. Plan A: Hide in the bathroom, alert brother and friends to come. The guy I was with didn’t know how many brothers I had. Plan B: Get the keys. Somehow. Or just take them from him before he starts driving…

But I sat through the movie, for reasons I don’t know. Did I mention how we arrived a half-hour early for the show? Or that the topic of choice was his ex-girlfriend and all of the horrible, malicious nicknames he had for her?

Seriously, what possessed me to stay? I paid attention to what he was saying—but only to argue with him. Which scared him a whole lot. I saw those jealous eyes widen and I saw him shudder. I stayed because I had an influence on him…although it didn’t exactly work out to my favor.

I changed the subject by mentioning Harry Potter. Well, actually it was a joke about it, an Internet spoof. For a moment “Who is your favorite character?” he asked me, eyes still full of malice. Or fear, they are both related.

“Luna Lovegood.” I told him in a very down-to-Earth voice.

“Why, because you act like her? Like a ditz?”
Anger churned my insides like butter. My fists clenched.
“No, because she was a smart girl, genius really, and she had nothing to hide. She wasn’t like Malfoy, who felt so insecure he was an as--"

And I won that argument and left him speechless.

The movie has ended, and as they lights brightened the room I realized that freedom was close, very close.

“So,” he starts, walking arrogantly, “how did that movie make you feel?”
What was he, a therapist?
“Confused, happy, confused, bored, tired, sad. In that order.”

This all ended less than a week later when I was approaching the Music Station, a music guru for teens, when he greeted me with a dirty look that seared across the street toward my friend Margot and me. He wanted me to check with him before I made plans? REALLY??? HE is not my parent. He is just another jerk among the myriads of them, and I pray to God that some lady will treat him the way he treats girls.

Whatever. Earth is full of jerks, they just get more rotten as they age. But how about the sky?

Is it cold when it snows? Is it cold like a lonely person’s Is it cold when it snows? Is it cold like a lonely person’s hands reaching out?

It has been nine years since you have passed away. I find myself thinking of it every day. But I didn’t want to send too many letters and figured you would be tired of the balloons. So I wait till midnight to send you all the letters I have written to you during the years. They have no stamps. It is on looseleaf because I slip the string of the balloon through the holes to tie them all together.

We’ll go dancing on the moon someday, I promise!
Love,
Noreen
Ps. I named a constellation after you. It spells your name. It’s part of the Big Dipper. Alright, it is the big Dipper. I know how much you love stars.

She faces the onslaught of the vicious cold wind that whipped across her fact and tugged her hair as she looked up. The snow was coming down in sporadic chunks and the moonlight allowed her to see her fumbling fingers, to see which letters she still needed to tie. She gabbed the frozen string and looped it, shaking, through frozen paper, done with loving care. Another gust of wind threatened to steal the balloons, but she planted her feet and didn’t allow them to move. Her gloves were in her mouth and Therese could not hear her crying. As she took another step forward, a neighbor shot off a firework which glowed a brilliant red. The message was clear: It was now midnight. The sisters clanged the pots together like drums as Noreen let go of the balloons, the string sliding between her freezing fingers up toward the moon.





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