347. Two Word Map

There we were again, back at the box in the trunk. We’d long lost count, the number of times we’d done this – rifling through all of those maps. Lost count of how many times they’d led us to dead ends or dangerous, dark roads that were obviously far off the mark. Lost count of how many times we’d met and talked to people along the way.

Some of them would show us the map that they were using and tell us how it well it was working for them. So we’d try to find their map in our box. Sometimes they even helped us look and while they’d sometimes find us one that looked just like theirs, we’d follow it only to find ourselves astray again.

Once, we tried driving with no map at all and yeah, that worked for a while, but that proved just as pointless as the all the other maps. Maybe even more so since we had no one to blame but ourselves.

We were tiring of driving. Tired of fruitless turns. Tired of reorienting ourselves to new maps only to find ourselves lost yet again.

And always, in the back of our minds, the knowledge that this car won’t run forever.

But there we were, digging through the box of maps. A lot of them, we knew we could dismiss. Trial and error had taught us that, painfully. But there were so many of them – ones that we’d tried or ones that we knew were wrong, some that we couldn’t understand at all. It was such a big pile and we were tired of looking.

And yet we so longed for the way there.

And then we spotted it: a tiny piece of paper, the size of a small post-it note – easy to miss in the pile. It didn’t look like a map. Was it? There were no lines marking roads or boundaries. It wasn’t a list of turns or landmarks. It was just two words. It sounded dangerous but also deliciously fun. We looked at one another and grinned this wild, stupid grin of abandon.

We taped it to the windshield, mashed the accelerator pedal, and never looked back.

veer lightward

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283. What It’s Like to be Shy (fiction)

[PREFACE]

I was about to start on this week’s post when (for some reason…probably to delay the actual work of writing) I took a look at my blog entries that held pieces of fiction that I was working on. I haven’t put anything up there in months (like since April).

Anyway, I’m looking again at what I had posted there and I came across this little story and I was cracking up because it was so much fun (if I can be so modest). And I thought I’d share it with ya’ll.

Just a note, this is FICTION! It might sound like me and while it’s loosely based on me, it’s not me… mostly.

Hope you like it.

[END PREFACE]

What It’s Like to be Shy

At The Coffee Shop:

I dress anonymously. I avoid color and fashion. Blue jeans and a dark (but not too dark) shirt.

I sit in the corner and face the window. I used to face the wall but one of my friends (one of four) told me it makes me look a bit crazy and kept me from blending in.

I scan the crowd but avoid eye contact. At the window in the front of the shop there is a row of barstools and a counter where patrons rest their lattes while flipping through the local weekly or write on their laptops. Sometimes I’ll spot a woman sitting there whose hair style attracts me and I imagine that she has a face with a beauty unique to my quirky aesthetic. Sometimes she turns and shatters the illusion, but more often than not, all I ever get is her ear lobe and the curve of her chin. And that can be enough.

At the Barber Shop:

When I get a trim, I always hope for a stylist who just cuts hair, who doesn’t bother with small talk.

I would never say this, because that would be too forward of me, but as I’m sitting in their chair, I always think to myself, “please, please, just cut my hair. Don’t ask me how my day has been. Don’t ask me what I do for work or for fun. Don’t ask me if I’ve seen any good movies. Don’t ask me about the latest reality show.”

“Just ask me how I want my hair done (short and thinned out), ask about my sideburns if you must (just even them out), but overall, just let your scissors do the talking and I promise a generous tip in return.”

In a Group Setting (say at a staff meeting):

People are often surprised at my insight and willingness to speak up. They think that because I am soft-spoken and reserved one-on-one that I would be more so in a formal group setting.

What they don’t understand is that it’s the personal part of personal interaction that I find acutely uncomfortable. Speaking in front of a crowd is easy because in a group, people become anonymous, impersonal, other. And when someone from the group responds to what I say, they are responding to the idea presented not to me, and that makes me feel safe.

Sometimes after a meeting where I had been especially vocal, a person will come up to me and ask if I would be interested in discussing my ideas further with them, perhaps over lunch. I find a polite way to tell them I can’t and that surprises them. I don’t tell them this, of course, but I decline because that’s just too much, too close for comfort.

Perhaps I miss out on promotions this way, and I’ll admit that it’s frustrating to watch people with an abundance of social skills but a dearth of intelligence work their way up the pay scale, finally settling in a position where their ignorance can flourish.

At the Bookstore:

I head first for the magazine rack, but my time there is short – catching up on the latest computer news and reviews. Most of my time is spent among the Literature shelves, particularly the New Fiction section.

Some recommend meeting women in the grocery store but that seems wrong to me. How much can you learn about a person based on vegetables, meats, and starches? I find the bookstore much more telling. I mean if I see a woman smelling the rind of a cantaloupe, what does that tell me, that she likes fresh fruit? But if I see a woman flipping through Sylvia Plath, I know she’s hurting something bad. If she’s reading Jane Austin, I’m thinking she’s probably got impossibly high standards. Jack Kerouac tells me she’s probably too bohemian for me and Toni Morrison that I’m not smart enough for her. And on and on. Much more informative.

Of course, being as shy as I am, all I ever do is watch. . .or what’s the more modern word for it? I lurk. And if I see a woman reading Douglas Coupland or Michael Chabon or T.C. Boyle, I just dream about what might be if I had bravado, and lines, and looks.

In My Dreams:

I’m taller and better looking. I dress better because I know how to dress better. I’m smooth and suave. I have women at hello.

I had a phase where I dated casually and widely. I unintentionally stole a couple girlfriends from their boyfriends though I didn’t know it at the time. However, I am now past all that exploration because I have found the love of my life. She is warm, witty, sharp, and in possession of natural, effortless beauty.

We work at our relationship. We do our best to fight fair. We agree to never hold grudges and we try not to.

I enjoy spoiling my love with style and surprise. I send her random, gooey text messages while she is at work – things like, “all u ever have to be is u and I’ll fall in love over and over again.” I imagine her reading those messages in the middle of a meeting. I imagine her hiding her smile behind her hand, pretending to cough. After the meeting is over she shows the message to her girlfriends and they laugh while wondering why their boyfriends aren’t as wildly romantic.

She finds surprising ways to return my favors. She sneaks a secret cup of pudding into my lunch bag. She draws a heart on the back side of my spoon so I don’t notice it until one of my coworkers points it out. He laughs at me just as her coworkers laughed at her but he laughs for a different reason, though deep down inside where he’ll never admit it, he laughs for the same reason.

[the end]

247. A Love Story In Three Acts

(based on a true story)

Act One

He graduates from high school and is full of bravado and naivete. He believes that he is God’s gift to women and that he will have no trouble finding a girlfriend. He thinks his main problem will be finding someone mature enough for him because most of the women he sees seem superficial and materialistic.

He also suffers from a mistaken idealization of the female gender. Bombarded by critiques of male stereotypes on television and in movies, he somehow draws the conclusion that men are all pigs and women are all angels. He doesn’t see himself as a pig which is why (as stated above) he thinks he will have no problem getting a girlfriend once he finds one he wants to date.

Act Two

He’s halfway through college and is nursing both a broken heart and a shattered sense of self-worth. At some point, he found someone to date but quickly learned that women are just as screwed up and prone to bouts of selfish, pig-headed behavior as men are. He also learns that love is hard and that it is more akin to a winner-take-all competition (a game, if you will) than the flowery dance of courtship portrayed in Hollywood romantic comedies (many of which, despite being a man, he enjoys).

Having lost his earlier wide-eyed optimism, he turns jaded and cynical. But he still longs to be with someone because he remembers how great it felt before things went bad.

But time and time again, he tries to pursue relationships only to find them ending before they’ve even begun. This batters his already damaged self-esteem and he finds himself wondering if any woman would ever want to be with him.

Act Three (anticlimax)

In his thirties now, he has regained a healthy view of himself, but he’s been apart from love for so long now that he’s forgotten why it is that people pursue one another. He’s forgotten how it feels (the rush and the wonder and the boundless joy) and so he can’t remember why it is that anyone would want to go through all the messy trouble of trying to start a relationship in the first place, not to mention all the work it takes to make it last.

The idea of love seems like a fairy tale fantasy – a good story he once thought to be true but he now categorizes it as a thing that (to reverse the old adage) isn’t true because it’s too good to be.

Besides, he thinks, being single ain’t all that bad.

The end.

(hopefully a sequel is in the works)

220. The Lepidopterist

Swarm

 
The Lepidopterist

What else could he have done? With all the traffic on the street, Duncan wasn’t even going the speed limit of 25. He saw the basketball enter the street from the sidewalk, out from an alleyway, and before he could make the connection between ball and boy, the child single-mindedly appeared in the street after the ball. He didn’t even have time to turn and see the jeep before it muscled over him. There was only the slightest squeal of tires but it was too late even before Duncan’s foot bore down on the brake pedal.

Screams and yelling, hand waving and finger pointing followed. There were stares – gazes, angry and disbelieving, shocked and scared. All this energy trained on him, his jeep, and the child, unconscious, trembling in acute shock. Enter the sitter – hysterical.

Duncan was a lepidopterist – a scientist who specializes in the study of butterflies, moths and similar insects. He was on his way to a lecture and presentation at a private elementary school. In the back of his jeep was a box containing a dozen monarch butterflies – Danaus plexippus.

These butterflies lay their eggs on the milkweed plant. The caterpillars that emerge feed on leaves and shoots from which their bodies glean and store bitter chemicals known as cardenolides from its sap. A bird will only attempt to eat a monarch caterpillar or butterfly once because even if it can get past the bitter, pungent taste, the endless vomiting that follows will drive home the point that this insect, defenseless as it appears, is not to be reckoned with.
CloseUp

Image by: Aftab Uzzaman

 
As the din of the crowd grew, Duncan sat behind the wheel, stunned. What’s the protocol in a case like this? As a man of science, he knew that there were ways that things were done – procedures that both maintained order and ensured repeatable, verifiable experimental results, without which science could not go forward. This kind of deterministic certainty crept into every area of his life and while it made for a quiet, peaceful life, it also induced a kind of paralysis in unfamiliar situations, and certainly, this was one of them.

Questions swarmed his mind. “Should I back up? What if the child is behind the front wheels? Should I get out? What will this do to my insurance? Am I at fault? What about the lecture at the school? Who are all these people? What will I say? Why now? Why me? Why do things always go so wrong? Oh my God, did I just kill a child?”

The questions continue to rattle through his mind and he lets them bounce off of one another. As if by instinct alone, he leaves the engine running, opens the door, gets out of the jeep, and braces himself before bending down to see what he’s done. There are already bystanders looking underneath the chassis. They are calling out to the kid and he takes this to be a good sign until he sees the pool of blood darkening the asphalt.
14692859822_bbbbe6bee3

Image by: Steve Corey

 
One of the wonders of the monarch butterfly is its migration pattern. In the fall, these tiny insects make their way from Canada and the northern most of the United States down to the slopes of Sierra Madre Del Sur in southern Mexico – a journey of over three thousand miles. What makes this trip even more remarkable is the fact that the butterflies who migrate north are not the same ones that migrated south the year before. In fact, the entire round trip can encompass up to seven generations, most of whom mate and die along the north-bound leg of the journey. As the end of summer approaches, a special generation of butterfly is born – one whose life-span is up to eight times longer than that of their grandparents. This is the generation that makes the long haul down south, fleeing the bitter winter cold.

Of course the big riddle is how this last generation knows the way back to the homeland of their great-great-great-great-grandparents – a place they’ve never seen before. Duncan likes to believe that butterflies pass the secrets of this journey on to their offspring through song. He imagines the butterflies singing to one another about an odyssey of epic proportions as they fly ever northward. And he pictures the southbound flyers marveling at the way the song that they’ve had ingrained into them through repetition guides them on their way back to the mountains of Mexico.

Peering under the vehicle, Duncan can see that the boy is still alive but in very bad shape. He has no medical training but he can see signs of trauma everywhere along the boy’s misshapen body. Another man runs up to the scene and introduces himself as a doctor – an oncologist, but a doctor nevertheless. He accesses the scene and enlists the help of others, gently pulling the boy out from under the chassis.

At this point, Duncan sees that there’s nothing left to do but let the life of this accident play itself out. It’s all out of his hands. He gets back into the jeep, shuts off the engine, and watches the drama unfold in front of him through the window. Fire trucks, ambulance, police, first responders. Questions, reports, no accusations, thankfully, but the guilt descends upon him anyway.

His cell phone rings. It’s the school asking him where he is.
Swarm2

Image by: Steve Corey

 
If the details of butterfly migration are a mystery, the metamorphosis from larval form (caterpillar) into pupa and finally into butterfly is nothing short of a miracle. Once encased in its chrysalis, a radical, comprehensive transformation takes place. It begins with a process called histolysis which breaks down much of the caterpillar’s tissue into a kind of gelatinous soup. Not everything is destroyed. Spared are the internal organs as well as a special set of cells called histoblasts. These cells are instrumental in building new body parts – legs, compound eyes, antenna, and proboscis, to name just a few – through a process called histogenesis. The wings actually begin developing from the first larval stages, with much of the wings’ formation occuring within the caterpillar’s body. During metamorphosis, they grow exponentially and adhere themselves to the outer cuticle.

Once this transformation is complete, the (now) butterfly breaks through the chrysalis and emerges wet with crumpled wings. It clings to the empty shell and pumps hemolymph (insect blood) through its body, basically inflating its wings. After about an hour (depending on surrounding temperature and humidity), the wings harden into a rigid structure that enables flight. The horny butterfly takes to the air, eager to feast, to migrate, and to mate.

Two weeks later, Duncan pays a visit to the boy’s house bearing one small gift. His bruises are starting to fade and broken bones are mending behind plaster casts. There are no hard feelings between any of the parties involved. Duncan sets a small cage on the boy’s bureau. He points out the tiny green chrysalis attached to a twig and tells him that if he listens quietly and closely enough, he just might hear traces of the song of migration – a tune three thousand miles long.
Crysalis

Image by: Linda Tanner

176. The Fish and the Farm

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Photo by: Andi Campbell-Jones

Then there’s the story of the fisherman who, unlike Ahab, chose to let the one that got away get away. He pulled up his poles, turned the bow towards shore, and throttled up the engine. Done with years at sea, he decided to try his hand, finally, at farming. As he piloted his boat, he imagined the joy he would see in his wife’s eyes when he gave her the news – because she knew as well as he that the sea was always his first love.

Until today.

He rehearsed the words he would use to tell her, speaking them into the wind. He tried different versions, each simpler and more to the point, until he decided on two simple words. “I’m home.”

Just before he pulled past the buoy that marked the entrance to the harbor, not ten feet off his starboard side, an eruption of water and emerging from the column, a fish like the one he’d been chasing throughout his life. And as in movies, and as in memory, and as it is in fleeting, pivotal moments in life, time slowed to a crawl, slow enough that he could trace the trajectory of drops within the cascade. That is, he could have if he was watching the water, but he was not. He was transfixed on the glorious, silver specimen rising up out of the deep, pelagic blue.

Time continued to slow, winding down like clock whose balance spring has lost its tension. And the fish continued its ascent up out of the water. It reached the apogee of its arc through the shimmering, salty air, and for one transcendent instant, it hung there as if mounted on his wall by taxidermy. In that moment, the fisherman was transported back to his house, three streets back from the pier. No, it wasn’t he that was transported, it was more that his trophy room materialized out on the open sea, framing itself around the fish right at the spot he’d been reserving for one last token of the sea.

There was a splash and the sting of salt in his eyes. The boat rocked, caught his sea legs unprepared, and he nearly fell over but muscle memory kicked in and kept him upright. He shook the water from his hair and the fish was gone. He raised a hand to wipe his eyes — his sleeves were soaked. With his other hand, he throttled the engine back, all stop.

And though the fish was gone and he was still out there at sea, his mind lingered in his trophy room. There was the space on the wall where he had intended to mount his prize. Without it, the room seemed incomplete, empty, wrong somehow. In this space grew a need to fill it, to set things right. He could feel the need crescendo, morphing into desire, flooding his heart with bitter want, a livid thirst to complete the room with one last sea prize.

And then his wife walked in, wrapped her arms around his waist, tilted her head, resting it on his shoulder. She whispered two simple words into his ear.

The propellers spun the sea into a frothy foam. The bow pushed forward through the choppy waters — thoughts of corn, carrots, leeks, and radishes ran through his head.

140. Consequences

Okay, here’s the finished version of the story. Damn, this was hard to write. This is basically the raw, first draft so there’s probably lots of typos. I’ll be editing this thing in the next few days. There’s a Christian website I’m thinking about submitting this to, so want to make sure the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted. It’s a pretty edgy story compared to what normally gets posted on the website so not sure if they’ll go for it or not.

Anyway, it’s pretty long so grab yourself a cup of coffee before diving in. Hope you like it.

Oh, and don’t forget, you can find this and my other stories on my storyblog site: LoneTomato Sauce.
(tell your friends)

__________________________

Done with his morning routine (shower, shave, brush, floss) difficult with unfamiliar, borrowed tools, but they got the job done. She, the nurse with the early shift, had gone hours ago leaving him towels and toiletries, travel size and spare. He holds them, used and bundled together in the damp towel, unsure what to do with them. He looks at the tangle of folds on her bed, flinches and looks away. He turns and surveys the rest of the room. He checks his watch and sees that there’s time enough to make it to work.

They first met at church, of all places – an old, conservative, starchy ordeal. He started going there his senior year in high school and stayed through most of college. She started attending a few years after he started, but then he left there to attend a newer, more contemporary service – one that he thought better suited his younger, more agile faith. He went to this church for five years but hip fades as does the multi-media dazzle. He didn’t know if something in this new church had changed or if something inside himself had changed, but it didn’t matter because the nexus of spirit and truth that first drew him to this new style of worship wasn’t there anymore. And so after he realized that he hadn’t had a single experience he would call spiritual in over six months, he returned to the conservative, starchy 11:00 service. He didn’t know where else to go, so he went back to the old, the familiar, the comfortable.

And that’s where he saw her. Again. And the five years between them had been more than kind to her, they had refined what was fair into something more striking and profound. And most miraculous of all, he could tell by that gleam in her eye that she was more than just happy to see him again. In the time before he switched churches, they would flirt and laugh and tease. But his faith was stronger then and it was this faith that helped him see that his attraction to her was purely physical – that he did not love her beyond what she did to his hormones. And so spiritual mind enforced itself over sinful matter and all was innocent and well.

His faith then was so simple, so sure. God was a rock, a lion, a lamb. Jesus loved him, a thing he could know because the Bible told him so. He looked out at the world and wondered how unbelievers could be so damned evil. But complications arise, the messiness of the world finds its way into cracks, fracture points, fissures of the surest belief systems. And when push came to shove, he found his Sunday School lessons woefully inadequate to tackle the hard truths of the world.

That was no matter though. He understood that the world was larger than he was and that God was there watching over him. So long as he felt the presence of God and sensed his direction, he was assured and blissfully content. And then silence fell. The presence and the guidance faded away, dispersed into thin air like the fog at dawn. No matter what he tried, no matter how much he made himself pray and read and sing and fast, nothing tasted anything like the sweet luxurious comfort of the Holy Spirit. And really, what can one do to penetrate the ironclad silence of God?

Back now at his old, familiar church with a more fractured, fragile faith, things were different between the two of them. He sensed it the moment they met again after his years away. It was in the way she hugged a bit too hard, looked his way a bit too long, touched a few too many times. Just as time had distilled her features to the essence of what he had found beautiful about her, so it focused and honed their formerly innocent flirtations into something more serious and intentional.

In part, he had returned for just such affections. He didn’t reason it this way at the time but he was seeking from her what he had lost from God. And isn’t this what’s been done throughout time? God goes up the mountain and his followers down below mold themselves a golden calf to commune with – something tactile, solid, and predictable. Something there. For them a calf, for him a woman after his heart.

He gave himself to her. It was far easier than he could have imagined. Effortless and effervescent, lunch gave way to a walk in the park that wound up in a movie theater which led to dinner and rather than waste their money on dessert, they went to her apartment to finish off the slice of cheesecake in the freezer – the slice she (“oops, I forgot”) finished off the week before. But better than that was the Amaretto in the cabinet – a sip on the sofa, a sip on the bed, a sip spilled between the sheets.

Sin is a strange thing. Truth be told, this is exactly where he wanted to be but sin knows he would not have naively followed the steps that led to her door and so sin spun it around, told him he was going back to his old church to find God and perhaps to see her again. Bait and switch executed to perfection. Innocent compromises, little white lies exchanged between want and reason. Justifications, one after another, each more outrageous than the one before. Had he started the day in her bedroom, it would have been a simple thing to forego temptation and to walk away, but their affections had been building since noon, and the law of inertia is inflexible.

And now he looks at the tangle of folds on her bed, flinches and looks away. He turns and surveys the rest of the room. He checks his watch and sees that there’s time enough to make it to work. But he can’t. He flips open his cell phone and calls in sick. And for good reason. He feels nauseous, violently ill, deathly. Up until yesterday, he had been faithful to the Lord. He was saving himself for marriage, for one woman forever. He had been steadfast, hard headed, adamant, even arrogant – holding himself above friends with less fortitude than he. But no more.

He drops the towel in the middle of the bathroom floor, turns the lights off, locks the door and rushes out to his car, parked in the street. He fumbles for his keys, drops them, curses. He finds the car key but somehow inserts it awkward and the bundle falls to the ground again. At last in the car he guns the engine and speeds away, barely missing the car parked parallel in front of him.

On the freeway, caught in traffic, he feels something new. Behind the guilt and shame, behind the anger at his careless self, behind the soft, lustful memories of skin, sensation, and the fiery, concussive consummation, there is something else. It’s been so long that it takes him a while to recognize it but when he does, he hurls it away, tries to block it out of his mind but as absent as it’s been these last few months, it’s here now and he knows that God’s not going anywhere. And what can one do to avoid the ironclad presence of God?

He surrenders and begs for unholy forgiveness. In this moment he understands what motivates the ascetic, flailing his body, ripping skin from flesh to show the Lord you’re sorry because praying it just doesn’t seem anywhere near enough. But he has no whips with which to render himself. All he has is prayer and these salty, slimy tears.

Past the traffic, through the streets, up the stairs, he’s back home, finally. He’s had his time with God and though a part o
f him wants to still feel guilty, to still feel sorry, the greater part of him knows that what’s done is done and that God is still full of that amazing grace made manifest most clearly in his forgiveness. And so he simply gives thanks and praise and wonder and awe. He basks in the favor of God, lost in ineffable bliss until the buzz of his cellphone brings him back. He pulls it out of his pocket and sees her name on the caller ID display. And it’s clear to him now, more than ever before, that while forgiveness is free and forever, consequences remain.

136. embarrassing stories

Originally posted this as a response to Leigh Nash’s blog (see her MySpace page).

I was a sophomore in college and it was finals week. One of my classes was a Survey of Philosophy (Phil 100) and because the final was scheduled for the last day of school, the prof offered the option to take the final earlier in the week in the Philosophy department library. So I get to there and all the seats around the table have been taken. So I take one of the seats around the edge of the room but there’s no table to write on so I sit cross-legged and put the blue book in my lap.

Anyway, this is a philosophy class so of course the final is short essay style. I’m writing away and making good progress when I get that feeling. You know that feeling where you need to fart and you know it and it’s one of those where you know it’s not going back up from whence it came no matter how long you hold it in? Yeah, that’s the feeling I had. So I’m in the philosophy department library with maybe twenty five to thirty other students working on their essays and as you can imagine, it’s dead, still, granite silence.

Okay, so you know that feeling when you know you have to fart but you think it’s going to be a silent one? Well that’s what I thought but in a room where a pin drop would have sounded like an avalanche, my otherwise tiny, high-pitched “pweeeeesssst” rang out across the room like a bottle rocket. Again, this is a philosophy final and so the room didn’t explode with laughter. That would have been a relief, instead the room stayed silent but the tension in the air was volatile. One little chuckle or snort and everyone would have been rolling. Everyone wanted to laugh, you could taste it in the air, but everyone held it in.

Anticlimactic, I know and so I share another…

I can’t remember what I was doing that night, maybe I was driving home from a gig with my band. Anyway, it’s late and I’m driving home and it’s one of those drives where you’re right on the edge of falling asleep and the only thing keeping you awake are those plastic bumps dividing the lanes that you keep drifting into. But I’m almost home so I keep going. I don’t know how, but I finally make it home. I pull into the garage, turn off the engine, turn off the lights, put my head back into the headrest and succumb.

I don’t know how long I was out but I wake up with a jolt! I still have my hands on the steering wheel and I’m thinking that I’m still on the road driving (because I’d caught myself dozing a dozen times that night). So my first instinct is to slam on the brakes. I’m mashing the brake pedal to the floor but I’m confused because it doesn’t feel like I’m slowing down. And then I notice that it’s pitch black out my window and I start thinking that I’ve driven over a cliff and I’m free-falling into space. I’m out of my mind, thinking I’m going to die when I realize that my car lights are off. I flip them on and I swear I see the back of my garage rushing up to meet the front of my car – see, in my head, I’m still thinking that I’m speeding down the road out of control or flying through the air off a cliff and so when I see the back of my garage, I’m thinking that I’m traveling at some ungodly speed and I’m about to crash through the back wall. And so I start slamming on the brakes again and I’m putting my arms up in front of my face to shield myself from the inevitable chaos of glass and sheet metal. . .

And then I figure it out. I remember making it home and falling asleep in the car seat. I turn the lights back off, get out and go to bed but now I’m so wired, I can’t sleep and I’m too tired to laugh at myself, until the next day when I tell my friends what happened. From then on, it’s been one of the funniest things that ever happened to me.