the hitchhiker



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.”


19 thoughts on “the hitchhiker

  1. Easy there cupcake. If you don’t take care of you, you are useful to no one.

    You need to release the steam somewhere.

    Also, I think if Brooke was typical, you’d still feel guilty about spending separate time with the girls. It’s good you do this for them.

    Now I have Guilt duct taped to the dining room table and body wax. He is on hairy son of a gun. Get over here and let’s wax him.

  2. It’s the worst of both worlds.
    Even if you can’t shake the guilt, it sure feels good to shake it, kick at it, shove it, scream at it.

    Now, would you like a xanax or a mood stabilizer?

  3. Balls in the air — spinning plates — boiled frog — too much ON — oh, how I hear you, sister!

    You write spectacularly.

    (That must have been what “he” was referring to, of course?)


  4. Some of the best advice I have ever received was from my stepmom who said…”No one can make you feel guilty but you.” That’s helped me step out of it many a time (and give the guy a good slap on the face). I bet the girls wouldn’t want you to feel guilt. Neither would Luau. And they’re the most important ones (next to you), aren’t they?

    BTW – Timing is apropos as I’m trying to plan for a big vaca right during a busy time at work…I wonder who will win?

  5. Yes sounds like it’s time for a break [yes, I know easier said than done] I wouldn’t recommend a trip to England though as that’s a bit of a marathon as well. Good bye jet lag, hello real life.

  6. Ugh. I always thought it was genetic. I know both my mom and grandma both had a hitchiker. Now that I am a mom I know better than to think it is genetic. It is a mother thing.

    You hit the nail right on the head, yet again.

  7. You had me laughing at the last line!

    I must say your hitchhiker friend reminds me of someone else, though… another constant companion… in fact, the only One I’ve found who can break the shackles of guilt…

    “Where can I go from Your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
    If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.”
    Psalms 139:7-10

  8. Ah yes, we have an occasional visit from your hitchhiker here. And sometimes from his rotten pals What If and What Then.

    But I’m with rhemashope, thank God we can choose to extend the invitation for constant companionship to Christ. With Him come our friends Faith and Hope. Peace and Assurance. Grace and Unconditional Love.

    And oh yeah, Margarita.

  9. It’s tough, because the metaphor is apt, the writing is really sharp here (you always have a knack for dialogue), but the pain beneath it, it’s tough to read about. Usually that’s one of the helpful things about metaphors, you can carry a lot of pain inside of them. They’re useful. But…I hope you’re okay. No beating yourself up too much, not allowed.

    (Also: I wonder what Guilt majored in during college?)

  10. m – i’m goin with psychology with a sociology minor – cause he’d have had a field day with freud and skinner, don’t ya think?

  11. I was never a person that allowed others to make me feel guilty…until I had kids. Guilt was an unfamiliar companion at first (ugly little bugger), but now he sits quite comfortably on my shoulder whispering in my ear, “You’re not doing enough…you’re not doing it good enough.”

  12. yes yes yes!!!! i know this! i absolutely know this feeling. i’ve picked up that guy before. and a few others with slightly different names.

    you need that night, that night to cut loose. i hope you give it to yourself. i’m not sure i ever did? but i wanted to. do it for me. do it for the me that couldn’t back when i was still running the uphill part of that marathon.

    xxxxxx a million

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