Monday, February 17, 2014

Ice Age

The kid called me on his cell phone to tell me he'd slid the car into a ditch. Coming up the steep hill near my house, he'd run over a patch of ice. The Impala, an ungainly tank made by Chevrolet, had slipped then lurched to the right and half dove into a trench two feet across and about three feet deep.

The car, he thought, wasn't damaged; just paralyzed. "What should I do?" he asked and me, blind with rage and a crippling sense of despair and disappointment, told him bitterly, "You wait there. I guess I'm on my way."

I hung up in a rage.

He called back. "You just need to call a tow truck," he said.

"I need to see what you've done. I'm on my way." I hung up on him, then grabbed my coat and stopped out of the house.

It was Saturday before noon. I was freshly showered, shaved and dressed --all pretty unusual for a Saturday morning. Usually, I'm in shorts and a sweat shirt, looking like a bum, but today, I was cleaned up and already had my boots on.

Forty-five minutes before the call, the kid caught me on my way to the shower with a request to take the car.

"Ten minutes," he said.

He wanted to run some errand, not an important errand, but I'd barely argued about it and said, "Fine. Ten minutes."

I didn't much care and had other things on my mind.

On my bed, laid a packed dufflebag with a change of clothes, a toothbrush and a few odds and ends for my girlfriend: a bottle of tums, some aspirin and a box of Pepto Bismol tablets --the same stuff we'd brought when we'd taken our trip to Kentucky.

I'd promised a trip away with my girlfriend for months. We needed to get away, if only for a day. After the chemical spill and the roughest winter most of us remember, she and I hadn't spent much time together. Bad roads, a bad reaction to the crap in the water, the stresses of a new job and she'd stayed away from the house.

So, for weeks, I'd been planning, making phone calls and looking at websites, just to come up with a short overnight trip to somewhere a little interesting where the water didn't smell like licorice and make her skin burn.

Things had come together and then they'd started to unravel a few days earlier with the latest storm. As part of the trip, we'd planned to check out a show at the local performance hall, but the band had postponed due to the weather and the forecast for the weekend wasn't encouraging.

Fate, it seemed, was against us.

The roads were slick and even in my boots, I half skated the way to the car. I found it thirty yards from the main road, tipped to the side at a weird angle.

Breathlessly, the kid said, "I checked. The car doesn't look damaged."

"That you can see," I spat. "Give me the keys."

I looked around. The right side front tire was deep in a hole. The back tire wasn't even on the ground, but no body damage. I worried something on the underside was broken or he'd snapped a tire off. I'd just put $1500 on my credit card for repairs and new tires and jeez, where was I going to get the money for more?

Ranting and shouting at the kid, saying everything but bluntly accusing him of driving it into the ditch on purpose, I took the keys and tried to drive it out of the ditch anyway. The car, as might be expected, went nowhere.

"What do we do now?"

"I guess I get a fucking tow truck," I said and then went on yet another rant about how this was entirely his fault or my fault for being decent enough to let him use the car to run what amounted to a stupid errand.

Finally, he said, loudly, "You never asked me if I was OK?"

He glared at me, hatefully.

"I did good to end up in that ditch," he said. "If I'd gone the other way, I could have been dead."

I ignored him and stomped home to try and find a tow truck.

At home, we slammed doors and went online. I went looking for someone to get my car out of a hole. He went to Facebook to denounce me for being a piece of shit, which, of course, I was.

It took me a minute to get that, to really get that.

At my desk, I put my face in my hands and wept out of despair, shame and disappointment. I was upset about the crashing disaster of another one of my great plans coming apart through no fault of my own. I was mortified at the things that had come out of my mouth and that the kid hadn't given me a pass on what seemed like understandable fury. I was embarrassed and hurt and angry at a world where things sometimes just don't go right.

I took a good long minute to process everything before getting to the truth of the day's events: Trips can be rescheduled. Cars can be repaired and girlfriends (if they're worth anything) will understand when plans have to change because of unexpected circumstances.

Sons are irreplaceable, even accident prone ones.

I'd love to say that the epiphany was instant, but it wasn't. The apology was slow coming, but it came and it was real. 

1 comment:

Autumn said...

Don't be so hard on yourself. Teenagers are trying.