Panic

I sat in the driver’s seat of my car, my left hand locked on the steering wheel, my right locked on the gear shift lever. My eyes raced between the cars in front of me, those beside me, those behind me. I checked my mirrors continuously. I looked over my shoulder to check my blind spots, though I’d carefully adjusted the mirrors to see what was in them.

I drove. In an endless sea of cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, vans, commercial trucks, and giant semis. In the pouring rain. I watched my lights shine on the back of the vehicle in front of me. I had no idea how much I was breathing. No idea what my pulse rate was, what my blood pressure was.

Three fingers on my left hand were numb, and they tingled. My palm felt like I was hammering nails through it. My right wrist ached. My thumb felt like I was stapling it to the lever. My head ached. My knees ached.

There was nothing I could do. Except survive. Except get where I was going alive. I maintained my death grips on the shifter and steering wheel. I didn’t care if my arms went numb from elbows to fingertips. I wasn’t letting go. You’d have to pry those things from my cold dead hands. I could see that, me dying in a car crash, and them having to cut me from the car. “He was still holding on to the steering wheel and gear shift.”

I thanked God for loud music. At least I couldn’t hear the noise of the ocean of cars that surrounded me. I found myself wishing the car behind me would give up, change lanes, and get around me, so I didn’t have to worry about being in its way anymore. I didn’t care if another one took its place. I’d deal with the next one when that happened. When it changed lanes, I took a quick breath, “Yes!”

Then the car behind it insisted on riding my ass. In the pouring rain. I knew there was no way it could stop if I had to slam on my breaks. It would plow into me without slowing down. Another Jeep, of course. “God, I hate Jeeps!”

I blinked a few times, quickly. My eyes felt better. I knew not to close them for more than a heartbeat at a time. I closed them, and I’d miss something. And that would be the end of the story.

“How long is it to the exit?” I prayed for a road sign. Any road sign. There, “Exit 258 B-A”! That meant I only had 3 miles left, then I could get off the damned freeway. I waited, my hands locked on the wheel and shifter. Hell, I don’t think I breathed for during that 3 miles.

As I exited the freeway, had to deal with the next problem. Merging into traffic on the road. I never knew what to do. Stop and wait for an opening? Floor it, and push my way in? Drive down the friggin’ sidewalk until I got an opening? Pray someone would be polite for once, and let me in?

Of course, once in, it was the normal race from stop light to stop light, trying not to get run over by the cars behind me, as cars cut me off to get where they wanted to go. If anything, my death grip on the wheel and shifter became tighter. My elbows started to ache, so did my right shoulder.

“Hope I don’t crack another tooth.” At least my jaw didn’t ache. Yet.

After a million lights, watching a million cars zigzagging between lanes, slamming on breaks and cutting each other off, and wondering if I was going to survive the trip to pick her up, I finally reached the parking lot where she worked.

I turned off the car. Put it in park. And sat there. Exhausted. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Exhausted. And the thought of driving home after she got to the car was terrifying.

I sat there, resting my head on the wheel. “Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic.”

I knew it was too late. I already had. And it wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.


It’s April 19th, and I’m finally catching up in the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the 16th of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. This one’s for the letter P. Monday brings the letter Q. I have no idea what I’ll write for that.

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