I picked up a hitchhiker last night. Don’t worry, Dad it’s a metaphor. Stay with me.
I was on my way home from a night out with work friends and there he was on the side of the road, looking all friendly and needy.
He jumped in and made himself comfortable. “No need for a seat belt,” he said in response to my sideways glance. “I’m indestructible.”
I looked over at him. He looked so familiar. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we’d met somewhere – shared an intimacy of sorts. It hit me – that lost weekend in college. Damn. “Did we um, well, ya know – er, back in school?’ Kidding, Dad.
He laughed. “Do you really not recognize me, Jess? I’m always here, doll. Try as you might, you can never really shake me. I just AM.”
We chatted a while as I drove. He asked about my evening and I told him that I was so glad that it had ended when it did so that I could run home to see the kids before bed.
He threw his head back and laughed. His laugh was hollow, metallic. It gave me a chill.
“When will you get it, kid? I don’t buy the lines of bullsht that you try to sell yourself. Good thing I’m so patient. Try again.”
My chest grew tight. I could barely breathe.
“Ok, fine,” I said. ” I didn’t want the night to end early. I was hoping I’d have another cocktail. I wanted to get tipsy and need to leave my car in the city. I wanted to laugh too loudly and not care. I needed a BREAK, damn it.”
I had no idea why I was telling him all of this, but I found myself building steam. My companion simply smirked as I raged on.
“I’m tired, OK? I’m tired of being UP and ON all day and then running home to feel like I have to be UP and ON all night. I’m tired of being pulled in a million directions and feeling like I’m doing nothing well. I’m tired of feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. I’m tired of being tired.”
“I’m tired of feeling like spending time with one of my children means giving up time with the other. I’m tired of feeling like I’m missing so much at home. I’m tired of keeping so many balls in the air all the time. I’m tired of watching money flow through my hands like water. I’m tired of making big decisions. I’m tired of feeling like I have nothing left for my husband. I’m tired of autism politics. I’m tired of wanting. I’m tired of trying to keep the demons at bay.”
“So, yeah – I needed a God damned night out. One night to take the filter off and be stupid. But here I am, driving home and feeling awful and angry at myself because the truth is that I’d really rather not be driving home right now. The GUILT is killing me.”
‘Well, it’s about time,” said the voice in the passenger’s seat.
I’d nearly forgotten that I wasn’t alone.
“You finally recognized me. I was beginning to take it personally.”
Ah yes, GUILT. How had I not realized it was HIM?
“Remember when you called for a moratorium on me? That was cute. I liked the t-shirts. The guys at work got a big kick out of the whole gag. How long did that last, Jess? A day? Two?”
He laughed again.
I was getting irritated. His arrogance was more than I could stand. The sense of entitlement in that self-satisfied smirk was just too much.
I pulled into my driveway and told him to get the hell out of my car. He hopped out and stood next to the door. “You won’t get rid of me, darlin. You never really do,” he said as he hopped onto my hood.
I pulled into the garage and slammed the door as I got out of the car. I was angry. Enough, already. I can’t carry this guy around with me everywhere I go.
I tried to shove him off the hood as I walked by, but he hung tough.
“By the way, Jess,” he said as I fumbled with the basement door. “That weekend in college? You were spectacular.”